The city of Tupelo's ethics study has stirred considerable controversy, pitting City Council and administration factions against one another with a series of back-and-forth accusations of bad faith.

That's why it's good to know from the consultant who will prepare the report that her relationship with city officials has improved in recent weeks. It couldn't have gotten much worse after she accused the mayor and chief operations officer of stonewalling and they accused her of misrepresenting the truth.

But Cindy Brown left town this week after three months of work without providing a timetable for the study that has already taken nearly a year and that was originally supposed to be completed last January. She said she still needs more information to finish her work, though city officials say they have given her everything she's requested.

In the meantime, the City Council voted to pay hers and her staff's expenses, some of which they had earlier questioned.

A projected completion date -taking into account all the mitigating factors of recent months - is in order. It's simply not good process for completion of the study, which will cost taxpayers at least $65,000 in fees and expenses, to be open-ended. Brown owes the city an approximate completion date, and the council should insist on one.

The study was originally commissioned in response to concerns expressed in Tupelo's black community about hiring and other personnel matters in city government. It was a good-faith effort to determine the nature and extent of any such problems, but the resulting process has been fraught with controversy and political tug-of-war. It has expanded into a much broader sweep, and the value of the study's findings have probably been compromised as a result.

Who's to blame is not the critical question at this point, and finger-pointing won't solve anything. Wrapping up the study and getting the results is the essential priority.

But it must be completed in a reasonable period of time and its findings reviewed so that the council and administration can review them and respond appropriately - keeping faith with their original pledge. That requires an ending point, and the city's hired consultant should provide one soon.

Recommended for you

comments powered by Disqus