Ethics Review Commissioner Jeffrey Kahl (left) questions Granite Shoals City Councilor Phil Ort (right) regarding his actions that were potentially violations of the city’s ethics ordinances. Kahl, Mark Morren, and Seth Smith were appointed by the council in September to review Ort’s case and determine whether he violated the ordinances by failing to fulfill public information requests, insulting residents and city officials, and sharing confidential information. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey
A Granite Shoals ethics review commission has found reasonable grounds to move forward with a final hearing to determine if Councilor Phil Ort is guilty of violating the city’s ethics ordinances and, if so, a punishment. The hearing has been set for 4:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at City Hall.
The three-person commission made the decision during a preliminary hearing Monday, Nov. 21. Appointed members Jeffery Kahl, Mark Morren, and Seth Smith all voted in favor of pursuing an investigation into Ort’s alleged violations.
For a stronger punishment, such as suspension or removal from office, to be handed out, Ort would have to be found guilty of a felony or misdemeanor of “moral turpitude” as stated in section 3.05 of the city charter. This refers to a crime that disrespects and antagonizes social norms.
Bushart, the resident who filed the complaint with the city, also accused Ort of sharing confidential information with her that was obtained during executive sessions of the City Council, which would also violate the Code of Ethics. The information in question was regarding supposed backroom deals and controversy surrounding former City Manager Jeff Looney, who was fired in June.
Commission member Morren led the preliminary hearing and heard comments from both Ort and Bushart before the commission made its decision to hold a final hearing.
When asked by Morren for his side of the story, Ort said there were no grounds for an ethics complaint because he had not been convicted of any crimes.
City Attorney Katz stepped in at the request of Morren to clarify that the responsibility of the commission is to determine if Ort violated the city’s ethics ordinances, not criminality. While some of Ort’s actions could have overlapped between violations of the Public Information Act and the Code of Ethics, the commission only has the power to determine ethics violations.
The ethics review commission will conduct its final hearing on the matter at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, in council chambers at City Hall, 2221 N. Phillips Ranch Road. However, a provision in the ethics ordinance provides an opportunity for two 15-day delays on a decision at the request of the subject of the investigation and the discretion of the commission.