So last evening’s hot workshop topic was the ethics task force final report, and how that went on and on. And on. And on. It is a complex issue, worthy of serious discussion. Some things on the list:
- Increasing the ethics commission size from 5 to 7 members, and limiting them to 2 terms.
- Developing a defined process for reconsidering advisory provisions (I would like to put a Lebowski quote here, but it’s got a no-no word)
- An astonishingly controversial conflict of interest clause that prohibits elected officials, their spouses, children, parents, or siblings, or business entities that elected officials (or any of these same close relatives) have a financial interest in from doing business with the county
- Tightening up financial disclosure for some positions
- A clause prohibiting retaliation toward anyone who files an ethics complaint (good idea, maybe!)
- Making it possible to subpoena people for ethics violation issues
There’re a bunch of problems, and you can guess who has them (although, surprisingly, Kirby Delauter was nearly silent through the whole thing). Billy Shreve is the B.S. boy, and he was on duty. Probably thought he would have more credibility with Kirby’s Law already on the books. One such problem he has is why the commission is not appointed by an independent body (he’s miffed, because Jan gets to be the deciderer…sort of). Maybe the Bar Association? I hope he said Bar and not Bartenders.
Turns out, it’s in the charter. Who would have thunk it? The charter gives the C.E. power of appointments, with approval by the council. And then Billy’s all, “Why are we bothering if we can’t change anything?” Round and round we go, and luckily Mr. Karl Bickel manages to put it palatably by explaining that everyone is on the same page, and that the charter is the obstacle but the task force doesn’t have the authority to amend it. Billy behaves like a giant snozzcumber, even when he has a good point, like that the definition of financial interest needs to be clear. It’s the tone of voice, man.
We are growing numb to this argument about how nobody can have a livelihood and be an elected official with these onerous prohibitions guarding against the appearance of impropriety. Mr. Craig Hicks kindly points out that it depends upon the industry as to how large a part of the market share is dependent upon the government. I suppose this means if you are a cobbler or run a spa, you may still have a chance to avoid the debtors prison. Oh we don’t have those, anymore? Hm. I better not give anyone ideas this primary season.
Your dear ol Yokel is sick to death of the whining about how you can’t participate in government if you are a poor little bidnessman. We are trying to watch these things and be informed and responsive citizens (and help some of y’all out by sharing the info, too). We are cooking dinner, wrangling homework, and chauffeuring to and from sports fields when meetings take place. It’s not just a Founding Fathers’ world that has changed. Abigail Adams’ modern counterparts have a lot going on, and time is a luxury both men and women have to balance. Every bit as valuable as money. I know a couple of them are probably burned up about it, but nowadays (!!!) we also get to vote and hold office. The way a couple council members have spoken to their female peers when they are agitated speaks volumes.
So, Chmelik. He’s all crabby about making rules that have maybe not even been broken yet and stuff. Linda Norris-Weldt lets him know (and I believe this came up more than once) that they got input from citizens, and amongst people about town the perception is that things used to go on in the dark behind closed doors. Uh….you don’t say?
Toward the conclusion we were treated to some mental gymnastics that on one level sounded perfectly reasonable, concerning whether or not a decision from the ethics commission could be appealed. Sounds sensible, right? And then it just isn’t, because what it is really about is how it can (and that one time has) come to pass that the County Executive issues an executive order when the ethics commission is not sufficiently ethical, and it isn’t actually about appealing a penalty at all. Just griping that they might be expected to be, well, ethical.