Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Jackson County Ethics Fiasco - Making Corruption Easier

Why would the Jackson County Legislature violate the Jackson County Charter, and exempt itself from oversight by the Jackson County Ethics Commission?

That's a hard question to answer, but one point is crystal clear. The Jackson County Ethics Fiasco orchestrated by Mike Sanders and the Legislature is certainly not designed to improve County government or to make themselves more accountable to voters.

Now, I'm not claiming that the Mike Sanders and the Jackson County Legislature are engaged in rampant corruption. Of course not. I am saying, however, that Mike Sanders and the Jackson County Legislature have just made it easy for themselves to get away with rampant corruption.


Honestly, who among us thinks that a legislative body that has in recent years engaged in actual fisticuffs, and which includes a man convicted of a federal crime, ought to be shielding itself from local ethical oversight?

One of my prized possessions is a copy of the County Charter given to me by Harold Fridkin, one of its authors, and a man I greatly admire. Perhaps I'm just a sentimental sap, but I take that document seriously, and it pains me to see Mike Sanders and the Jackson County Legislature use it as toilet paper, ripping from it the pages that empower the Jackson County Ethics Commission to "receive complaints and conduct investigations" concerning our Legislature. It pains me to read that Mike Sanders, rather than standing up for local ethics enforcement, proposes to solve the problem by amending the charter to gut the ethics commission.

I have the deepest respect for several of the Jackson County legislators, but I am at a complete loss to explain why they would make corruption easier in our county, and refuse to be held to the same ethical standards as other county employees. The state ethics commission will not enforce county ordinances, so they can violate our new ethics code with impunity. Why would they give themselves that option?

Even if they complete their terms with honor, their misdeeds surrounding the Ethics Code will be the root of future scandals. Even if they are not crooks, they will be the ones that enable future crooks.

It ought to bother us that they cannot explain why they choose to exempt themselves from the oversight of the Jackson County Ethics Commission, which is the only body authorized to enforce the ethics code. It ought to bother them, too.

It ought to make them sit for a few minutes and think about whom they are serving with their actions. Future crooks, themselves, or the citizens of Jackson County? And whom were they hoping to serve when they first got involved in public service?

The citizens who drafted the County Charter expected our legislators to submit to the oversight of the Jackson County Ethics Commission. Why, now, is that too much to expect?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

GREAT SCOTT - will someone please run against Burnett and get him out of office!

1/07/2009 8:46 AM  
Blogger craig said...

I am suprised and impressed that you posted something critical of the highly corrupt, and Democrat dominated Jackson County legislature.
There are 2 major problems with your post though.
1. You accurately mention Tindal as a convict (nice link), but you forget to mention Rizzo. Granted his is a misdemeanor, but he did time for it. It is also important due to the fact that it seems like Rizzo is who Sanders has hooked up his political cart to.
2. You stated, "Now, I'm not claiming that the Mike Sanders and the Jackson County Legislature are engaged in rampant corruption." You could claim that, because it is true. With the exception of Garza and Grounds, you couldn't fit the amount of integrity of that legislative body in a thimble.
They make Chicago politics look clean.

1/07/2009 7:53 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Good points Craig. Also don't forget that Rizzo also is in the payday loan business.


1/07/2009 8:08 PM  
Blogger craig said...

Conviction for check kiting, payday loan industry.
Hmmmmm, coinky dink? I don't think so.

1/07/2009 8:19 PM  
Blogger craig said...

I can't believe I am about to say this, but Yael actually had a good idea.
Change the County Charter, now he says that Sanders should try to get it on the ballot. I don't see that happening, but it could be done by citizen initative.

1/07/2009 9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, aren't "ethics" and "Jackson County" synonymous? wkb

1/07/2009 10:06 PM  
Anonymous W. O. Thompson said...

Hey Dan, maybe you should read that copy of the Charter as long as you have it. You might learn that it is the County Legislature which has the legislative authority under the Charter.

Sanders cannot pass laws or exert authority over the legislature. He has to work with the legislature and a majority of that crowd likes things they way they are.

This is called the Real World Dan. Welcome to it. It has nothing to do with The Orange Revolution so it will seem strange to you.

Unlike that blithering idiot Funkhouser over at City Hall, Mike Sanders does not even have a legislative vote to cast. So once again you led a reader to believe that you are under the influence of the sweet smell of smudge stick smoke.

You do not even mention that Sanders proposed the code in the first place! Did you know that or are you just admitting that you sit down to write this stuff without really putting any work toward the process?

The record shows that Sanders tried to work with the legislature to get an ethics code adopted, and they ran from it. The legislative majority simply ignored the proposal even after a special committee charged with writing it had completed its work.

So at the State of the County Address, Sanders called the legislature out by promulgating an executive order to apply ethics rules to every county official and employee under his jurisdiction.

Your tear-stained copy of the charter might tell you (if you would read it), that the County Executive cannot make rules for the legislature.

All you have to do is read the record of the past year to learn that Sanders did what he could politically and legally on behalf of a ethics code proposal that was DOA, but a failed-lawyer and a dead-end political supporter of the Orange Revolution just must not be able to grasp an easy concept like that.

It's called Separation of Powers Dan. They must have covered that in Law School one of those days when you were home watching the Captain Kangaroo Marathon and drinking beer.

I realize that this might be all to confusing to the Vanguard of the Orange Revolution, but that lack of understanding is exactly what brought about Funkhouser's demise. Moral victory is another term for defeat.

Any who ...for a while people around the Courthouse hoped that the Legislature would be shamed into doing the right thing but that task (doing the right thing) proved to be real hard for a majority Legislators.

Now when all of this was being debated, BECAUSE Mike Sanders pushed the his proposal for an ethics code out of Task Force Hell where certain legislators had condemned it to rot, it might have helped if local bloggers had raised the heat on the legislature. It really might have helped to stir up public support and get opinion-makers talking.

Of course, you COULD have filled that role Dan, but you didn't. You did not "stand up" when you were needed.

No, when you could have helped, you probably were busy writing about why Gloria is not crazy, or why your beer is better than all beer, or why Gloria is not offensive to the Civilized World.

Whatever the Hell you were doing, when it came time to be counted you did nothing Dan. As far as I can tell this is the first time you have mentioned the ethics proposal that Sanders has been pushing for a very long time.

Nevertheless, now you want to blame Mike Sanders for "not standing up."

Personally, I am pleased to see people upset by the legislative majority's united act of political stupidity -- especially when taken by those who have had documented problems with ethics in the past.

Still, your blaming the guy who proposed and advanced the ethics proposal, and who has pledged to continue to work for the ethics proposal within the constraints of the charter, is nothing less than George Orwell stuff Dan.

Now that you are a little bit more in touch with reality, I would ask you to support Sanders' continuing effort to establish a universal county ethics code through legal means; however, the whistling sound made by your falling credibility is tough on the ear drums.

So instead, I suggest you just open a beer, light another smudge stick and kick off you shoes. That is all you seem to be good at anymore.

1/08/2009 12:02 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Thompson, it's good to see you're paying at least a little attention.

You are correct that Sanders was in favor of the code at the beginning, and enacted a scaled-back version by executive order.

If you think that's evidence of Sanders being a powerless angel in this circumstance, you're entitled to your view. But the truth is that Sanders provided cover for the legislature and refused to exercise his powers to move the provision forward.

Check out the section on County Executive powers (pages 12 and 13), and you'll see that he really does have the power to support the charter, to participate in legislative discussions, and to "Recommend to the legislature such measures as may, in his opinion, tend to improve the county government". Did he push the Code as drafted? Did he use his bully pulpit to call the legislators out as directly as this blogger did?

The answers to those last questions, Mr. or Mrs. Thompson, is a flat "no". He cut a back room deal with the legislators to give them cover with their fraudulent, version.

I won't be as vituperative back to you as you were to me, because you, unlike Sanders, are willing to stand up and call for the Code to be include the Legislature, as I have been doing publicly and privately for months.

Welcome aboard. I'm not the enemy, and Sanders isn't the hero.

1/08/2009 6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like you screwed up on the details again Gone Mild.

1/08/2009 8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really? What did he say that was factually inaccurate?

1/08/2009 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

. . . (crickets chirping) . . . .

1/08/2009 11:22 AM  
Blogger craig said...

Dan and Thompson,
As of right now, you are both technically right.
Time will tell if Sanders backs a Ballot Initative to make the elected officials accountable.If he does, he redeems himself. If not, then he caved to the slime that oozes from Jackson County.

1/08/2009 9:32 PM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

I need to weigh in here.

W.O is correct. There are executive and legislative branches of government(in addition to the judicial), a separation of powers, and balancing of power that occurs between the branches of government.

An executive cannot procedurally collaborate or influence the legislative branch, unless it is in the form of a veto or more obscure mechanisms that modify the execution of passed legislation.

You're arguing that Sanders was like-minded and in collusion with the legislators who exempted themselves from ethics oversight.

Did you ever think that Sanders may have perennially supported ethics oversight and the legislative branch acted unilaterally?

And that you are accusing the County Executive of collusion, when in fact that executive was working actively for ethics oversight?

Hint: Sanders has alwaysd been actively supporting strong ethics oversight of the legislative branch.

Unfortunately Dan, you got your post only half right, and what's worse, you're accusing the county executive of something he is 180 degress opposed to.

Make a few phone calls, and you'll understand.

1/08/2009 11:35 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Mainstream - I've made my phone calls, had my consultations, and I am right. You, on the other hand, appear to misunderstand the powers of the County Executive, and have fallen for Sanders' spin.

Mainstream: "An executive cannot procedurally collaborate or influence the legislative branch, unless it is in the form of a veto or more obscure mechanisms that modify the execution of passed legislation."

County Charter: "Section 6. The executive, in addition to other powers and duties provided in this
charter, shall have the power to:
. . .
5. Execute and enforce the provisions of this charter . . .

6. Attend meetings of the legislature and participate in its discussions without vote.

7. Recommend to the legislature such measures as may, in his opinion, tend to improve the county government and the general well being of the people; . . ."

Sanders is failing to do number 5, and he could have used 6 and 7 to avoid this Fiasco. He didn't. Why not?

The spin you are falling for is based on historical truth, though. Yes, Sanders most definitely did want to get a real ethics code that would be applied broadly. He started from the right place.

But then, when the legislature got angry because they had to actually answer to the ethics committee, he buckled instead of fighting for ethics. He didn't have the guts to take on Rizzo and the others, so he sought to appease everyone with his watered down version, and gave the legislature face-saving cover.

I suppose that Sanders wants to do the right thing here, and he would have done so if the legislature didn't prefer corruption to oversight. BUT - he went along to get along. Does that make him less culpable than the legislators? Maybe, depending on how you look at it. I know, however, that he made a political decision to avoid the turmoil that would come from preventing corruption. To me, that's pretty foul, even if, in his secret heart of hearts that he dare not express in the company of the legislature, he really pines for the right thing.

Political cowardice is not a quality I admire.

1/09/2009 7:03 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Dan, I think you're spinning things.

5 is neither here nor there.

regarding 6 & 7, they do not confer any powers or influence THAT I DON'T HAVE.

I have, and every citizen has the powers of 6 & 7.

6 & 7 don't mean diddly crap, and doesn't confer any special power or influence.

You can keep saying that Sanders is against legislators being subject to ethics oversight.

And every time you say it you will be wrong.

1/09/2009 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Kingsfield said...

Enforcing the Charter is neither here nor there to you, Mainstream??? Maybe you really are Mike Sanders. I wish he would take that duty more seriously, since the Charter has the legislators being overseen by the ethics commission!!

And in your world, every citizen has a right to participate in every meeting? Wow. Bobzilla would love you.

Finally, let me resort to Dan's comparison method:

Mainstream: "You can keep saying that Sanders is against legislators being subject to ethics oversight. And every time you say it you will be wrong."

Dan: "Yes, Sanders most definitely did want to get a real ethics code that would be applied broadly. . . . I suppose that Sanders wants to do the right thing here, and he would have done so if the legislature didn't prefer corruption to oversight."

Who's spinning now?

1/09/2009 11:05 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

An executive authority may have the authority to enforce a county Charter. The U.S. President has the authority to enforce and abide by the Constitution.

So what power, EXACTLY, does the executive have over the legislative branch??? At the county level, and at the federal level???

Huh! Maybe there is a concept of SEPERATION OF POWERS (and checks and balances) that prohibits one branch from controlling the other branch.

That's a very stupid argument, to say an executive's power to enforce a charter or constitution gives them unlimited power and/or resposnbility over the legislative branch of government.

Explain to me, exactly, and how statutorily, the county executive controls, has power over, or any responsbility for the laws passed by the legislators, or the ability for legislators to pass legislation.

No one seems to want to offer any facts here. Answer in specifics, because I'm not buying your general nonsensical arguments. Get specific and explain things and defend yourself, Kingsfield, because right now you're not making sense.

1/09/2009 11:42 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

It looks like Kingsfield has taken off for the weekend, so I don't know exactly what he would have had Sanders do.

Personally, I wish he had publicly backed the Ethics Commission version, and publicly called out the legislature for ignoring it. When he imposed his version on the rest of the county, I wish he had NOT acted like it was a major step forward, but instead used it as a hammer of shame for the legislature. Then, when the legislature passed their version in violation of the Charter, I wish he had vetoed it, and held a press conference to focus attention on the problems.

Face it, Mainstream, Sanders has backed away from his goal of getting a good ethics code because the going got tough.

1/10/2009 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sanders' father was not found dead in a trunk, so I would say we have county progress.

And I would say you are an idiot Dan.

1/10/2009 10:50 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

My, such a high standard of ethics you have, anonymous! As long as there aren't fathers in trunks, it's all good, huh?

1/11/2009 12:02 AM  

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