On Friday the Wichita Eagle reported that the involvement of Wichita public relations consultant Beth King in a project seeking city approval was a problem for three members of the Wichita City Council. Not so, however, for the city manager, the mayor, and three other council members.
The crux of the problem is that King is engaged to be married to Wichita City Manager Robert Layton.
But now, as reported in the Wichita Eagle King will step down from her assignment of providing public relations support to the project. With that, the problem is solved, according to city hall standards. The story reports: “About an hour after King announced her resignation, Layton announced that all staff work and recommendations on the STAR bond proposal by GoodSports will be approved by Mayor Carl Brewer in an effort to enhance the project’s transparency.”
So now the issue is put to rest. What have we learned?
In a press release, on comments left on this site, and in personal email correspondence, King says that she has made changes to her business model based on her involvement with the city manager. That’s fine.
But King is not a government employee or elected official. She is not constrained by the special set of ethics rules that should apply to those working in government.
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and manager Layton, however, are — or should be — constrained by ethics rules different from the private sector. And while Layton has come around — only after realizing that three city council members were concerned — Mayor Brewer still doesn’t see a problem.
That is the lesson Wichitans need to learn from this episode.