Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dan Tarwater Responds, but Appears Not to Know What is in the Jackson County Charter

Dan Tarwater is my in-district County Legislator. I wrote to him and the rest of the Legislators expressing my dismay at their refusal to support local ethics review, and asking them each three specific questions. I also promised to publish their answers, unless they requested that I not do so. Here's what I got from Dan Tarwater:
1. Do you support empowering the Jackson County Ethics Commission to have authority to "receive complaints and conduct investigations" regarding Jackson County legislators?
Yes I do and the legislature does authorize and allow the Ethics Commission to have authority to receive complaints and investigate but then it is to be passed on to the Missouri Ethics omission. The reason for that is that the Jackson County Ethics Commission is appointed by us and it could have a conflict of interest since we also fund them. There are already provisions in place to avoid this conflict and that is the Missouri Ethics Commission.

2. If not, why not?

3. Do you believe that the Jackson County Charter supports your
interpretation, or do you believe that it needs to be changed to
allow for the exemption of elected officials from local oversight?

I do believe that the County Charter does support this position. I feel that we as elected Officials should be help to a higher standard than anyone else. If an elected official does something that is wrong they should be suffer the consequences. Any act that is deemed to be a violation should be investigated by an authority that does not have ties to body. We would not want someone to look at a ruling and say they did not find them guilty because they had a conflict of interest.

So there you go. Let's take a look, though, at the truth of what he said.

"The reason for that is that the Jackson County Ethics Commission is appointed by us".
That, folks, is a pure, unadulterated LIE. The County Legislature does not appoint the Jackson County Ethics Commission! While supporting legislation to rob Jackson Countians of ethical oversight, Tarwater doesn't even have a passing familiarity with how the current system works!!

Here, for those who care about the truth, is what the Charter, not Dan Tarwater, has to say about how the Commission is appointed, and it's linked to the real Charter, in case you want to read the entire Charter by yourself:
There shall be an ethics commission selection board, which shallappoint all of the appointees to the ethics commission. This board shall consist of the executive director of the Mid-America Regional Council, the dean of the Henry W. Bloc School of Business and Public Administration at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, and the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City. Within thirty days of the effective date of this section, the selection board shall appoint five residents of the county to the ethics commission. The commission members shall select their own chairman. Thereafter, within thirty days of the occurrence of a vacancy on the ethics commission, the selection board shall fill the vacancy.
That's a lot of technical language, but it raises a vital question.

Does Dan Tarwater not know what he's talking about, or is he lying to his constituents?
It's one or the other, and neither answer is acceptable for someone making decisions about how Jackson County voters can hold their legislators accountable for unethical behavior.

Tarwater's second answer also includes a major blunder about what is in the Charter. He claims that the Charter supports his position on robbing Jackson Countians of the right to oversee the Legislature's ethics. Once again, let's go to the primary sources.

The Charter: "The commission may receive complaints and conduct investigations of violations of the conflicts of interests, financial interest disclosure, and lobbying registration and disclosure provisions of the charter, the code and ordinances, and the statutory and common law of the state of Missouri as it applies to county officers . . ."

The Ordinance Dan Tarwater and the rest of the Jackson County Legislature enacted: "the Jackson County Ethics Commission shall be without jurisdiction to hear complaints [[filed with the Jackson County Ethics Commission]] concerning the compliance with any provision of this chapter of any actions or conduct of any County elected officials . . ."

So, the Charter specifically authorizes the Commission to look into ethics violations by county officers (including elected officials), while the ordinance specifically robs them of that jurisdiction, and Tarwater seems to think the two are consistent. Once again, we are left wondering, "Does Dan Tarwater not know what he's talking about, or is he lying to his constituents?"

It's an interesting question, but does it really matter?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The County Legislature is every bit as much of a disgrace as the Co-Mayors.

Throw the bums out!

1/14/2009 7:29 AM  
Blogger craig said...

You forgot option 3.
All of the above.

1/14/2009 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tarwater is not completely wrong in that the Legislature votes approve the nominations or appointments of said candidates. I think he is a snake, but one that definitely knows whats going on in Jackson County.

1/15/2009 1:08 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous -

The Charter has NO provision for the approval of the Ethics Commission by the legislature. If they do purport to "approve" the candidates, it has no more force and effect than if Jason Whitlock purports to approve them. Indeed, it would further demonstrate just how incompetent the legislature is to handle ethics issues if they really do claim to approve them.

1/15/2009 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might not be a bad thing that the state sets penalities and addresses complaints. Look what happended to Scott Burnett. An ethics complaint was filed against with the Jackson County Ethics Commission - all supporters of his - and he got off scott free. It was then filed with the state and the state found him guilty and fined him a large sum of money. I think there are pros and cons to both sides.

1/19/2009 11:09 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Another example of how it is not double jeopardy. The County looked at ethics violations, and found none. The State looked at statutory violations, and found one. They aren't at all inconsistent in their findings - they were looking at different things.

1/19/2009 11:12 AM  

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