Last summer, Tumlin said, when the City Council approved a request from Theatre in the Square to renovate its building, Councilman Philip Goldstein, whose family owns the theater building, did not participate in the discussion or vote on the matter.
"It's an uncomfortable position to be in," Goldstein told the committee, adding that if he had participated and voted on the proposed renovation, he could have been at risk of an ethics violation being filed against him.
Tumlin said while it's appropriate that Goldstein not participate in the discussion as a council member "from the bench," he should be allowed to answer questions in the audience as a public citizen.
"By having a principal witness leave the room it chills the flow of information. He ought to be allowed to talk to council and he ought to be allowed to ask questions," Tumlin said.
The three-member ethics committee agreed to revise the language in its code in favor of the mayor's suggestion.
Tumlin also asked the committee what to do if the public had a perception of there being a conflict of interest on council, even if there wasn't an actual conflict of interest. Tumlin used himself as an example, saying he prepares the taxes for the Marietta Museum of History. What should be done if council asked Tumlin to negotiate with the museum on a separate matter, given that he prepares the museum's taxes?
Dr. Warren Herron, ethics committee chairman, said Tumlin or the council could always ask his ethics committee to render an opinion on the specific matter. That way if an ethics violation was filed, the official it was filed against would be protected, said committee member the Rev. James Speed Jr.
However, ethics member Jerry Gentry said a council member should know if an action they participate in "doesn't pass the smell test." If it doesn't, they don't need to participate in the issue, Gentry said.
Tumlin said he would keep that in mind in the future on whether to ask the committee for an advisory opinion.
"I think that's almost a self-governing, commonsense approach that we ought to always be aware of," Tumlin said.
Ethics committee members, who serve for two-year terms, are appointed by three different routes. The mayor nominates and council approves one member (Herron); council appoints another (Speed), and Herron and Speed appoint a third member (Gentry).