LONDONDERRY | Despite serious misgivings by the town's attorney about a proposed code of ethics, councilors this week took the next step in the process of moving it toward a vote.

The board scheduled a public hearing on Dec. 3 that will allow questions and comments about the ordinance.

At their meeting Monday night, councilors read a letter from legal counsel Barton Mayer, who cautioned them about the wording of the document and the creation of a committee to enforce it.

"I confess that my concern is that the ethics committee component of the proposal is destined to become a disaster," Mayer wrote. "I have no doubt that it will be misused, consume excessive amounts of time, be very expensive and will generate a great deal of ill will."

Mayer said he worries that the code will open the town to liability, saying that if employees or officials were to be falsely accused of wrongdoing, the code could give them the right to sue the town.

The code of ethics, proposed by Councilor Brian Farmer, is based on the ordinance used by the town of Dunbarton. In its current form, it would cover all elected and appointed officials and all paid town employees.

Councilors Mark Oswald and Kathy Wagner opposed the hearing, suggesting instead a council workshop on the same date.

Oswald noted that there has yet to be any citizen involvement and that the wording of the ordinance is not specific to the town.

Farmer agreed that there are some issues with the language and that some things would have to be clarified.

"Shouldn't we draft an ordinance specific to Londonderry?" Oswald asked.

Wagner said she was disappointed with the council's acceptance of the proposal as it was submitted.

"It was assumed that we would adopt this as written," Wagner said. "I would like examples of unethical behavior ... that show that we need this document."

Oswald noted that he was all for more discussion and moving forward, "but not at run-away speed."

Farmer, who gave up his spot on the board during the summer only to take back his resignation, recommended the ordinance be passed before the end of the year.

"What's the rush?" Oswald asked.

"I'm not going anywhere on Dec. 15, and this is not a last hurrah kind-of-thing," Farmer responded.

Councilor Marty Bove said that the process of constructing an ethics code is not moving all that quickly.

"This was first brought up in June," Bove said.

Bove defended the formation of an ethics committee. Without a board to implement it, "why have a Code of Ethics in the first place?" he asked.

"Everyone thinks this committee will be out there waiting to lock everyone up. The committee is formed so they won't deal with frivolous claims. If you run for office, you need to be ethical anyway," Bove said.

Town Manager Dave Caron has suggested removing town employees from the code's oversight, but Council Chairman Joe Paradis said he believes they should be covered.

"Will it turn away volunteers?" Paradis asked. "Then don't volunteer."

Wagner described the creation of a code of ethics and an enforcement committee as politically motivated.

"Let's put stocks out on the Town Common and throw tomatoes at people," she said.

Paradis said one of the first committees he was on in town was an ethics and standards committee.

"We just came up with a pamphlet about how to behave at town meetings," he said.

Paradis said everyone he's talked with has no objection to a code of ethics.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at Town Hall.

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