Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Jackson County Ethics Crisis Day 58 - Ethics Without Rules

Does anybody in Jackson County governance care about rules?

Yesterday, the Jackson County Ethics Selection Committee issued a press release announcing its intent to violate the Jackson County Charter by choosing an ethics committee after its authority to do so has lapsed. It shows just how far and deep the disdain for ethics runs in Jackson County that we cannot even choose our Ethics Commissioners according to the rules.

It's really quite clear. This is what the dusty, ignored Jackson County Charter has to say on the matter:
. . . within thirty days of the occurrence of a vacancy on the ethics commission, the selection board shall fill the vacancy. If for any reason the ethics commission selection board fails to timely fill any vacancy or position on the ethics commission, the executive shall appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy or position.

In legal parlance, shall has a definite meaning - it means "must". For the Jackson County Ethics Selection Committee to validly appoint someone, they must do it within 30 days of the vacancy.

By contrast, here's the casual approach the Jackson County Ethics Selection Committee adopts to fill vacancies that started 58 days ago:
Applications for the Ethics Commission will be accepted throughout the month of February 2009 or until the commission is filled.

We hope to complete selection during the month of March 2009 or shortly thereafter.
Really?!?! They "hope" to get around to providing Jackson County with an Ethics Commission a quarter year or more after the first vacancy occurred, and they won't even solidly commit to that?

The simple truth is that the Jackson County Ethics Selection Committee is acting far beyond its scope under the oft-ignored Jackson County Charter. It no longer has any legal power to appoint members to the Jackson County Ethics Commission.

The bottom line of governmental ethics is following the rules, and the entire Jackson County ethics system has been corrupted to the point that nobody is even pretending to follow the rules anymore. It's a sad day in Jackson County when the Jackson County Charter is willfully ignored by the people it depended upon to uphold it.

Has the legislature's intransigence poisoned the ethical well of Jackson County? Can any ethical citizen in good faith agree to participate in a sham ethics commission, illegally appointed, and barred by ordinance from fulfilling the duties set forth in the Charter?

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Anonymous No Ethics=No COMBAT said...

Several applications were withdrawn in January due to the stink of corruption which surrounds the legislature's action to remove itself from ethics oversight.

At the very least, the applicants said "why bother?" Most of them really said, "I am not going to get messed up with those crooks."

Why don't you apply Dan?

2/03/2009 7:32 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

There are a bunch of reasons, but one of them is that I agree with the withdrawn applicants. I think it's unethical to participate in this sham of an ethics commission, barred from doing its duty. Lending your name to it is helping the Jackson County legislators paper over their anti-ethical behavior. No thanks.

2/03/2009 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is my 2 cents on the matter: First, this is an important topic and deserves the attention that Dan is giving it.

However, much of the current drama was created when then chair Carol Grimaldi decided on her own that she was the next Kenneth Star of Jackson County and could spend unlimited taxpayer dollars without having to answer to anyone. In short, she spent over $45,000 in taxpayer dollars "investigating" a matter that ultimately even she admitted was unfounded and was resolved with several simple phone calls. Furthermore, she insisted in several public meetings that when the legislature is being investigated, that they must pay her bills without any recourse or question. I have been told that what ultimately brought the matter to a head was Mike Sanders stepped in and asked the legislature to simply give the commision the documents they were going to ask for as he was tired of huge pointless legal bills when the county was laying people off (Note that before he stepped in Carol wanted to go through another round of hearings etc. that she estimated would cost another $25,000). We can debate prosecutorial tactics, but when phone calls will suffice, $45,000 - $70,000 in legal bills is a little over the top and completly unnecessary.

Here's my point with all of this. I don't think Carol is/was evil, however she single-handedly destroyed any legislative support that there was on this issue when she started running her tab.

So, here's my analysis and prediction. The legislature's vote was more about Carol than about ethics (like it or not, it is simply the truth). With the selection of a new ethics committee, look for the legislature to look for a way to pass new language that makes the code apply to them.

Now, Dan and others may scoff at what I am writing, but I know what I am talking about. There are some good people on the county legislature, and they will make this right with a little time. And when they do, Dan should consider giving them an attaboy.

2/03/2009 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. - Contrary to popular belief, there are MANY applications for the ethics jobs. Filling them won't be a problem.

2/03/2009 10:53 PM  
Anonymous Put Henry In Jail said...

How fucking stupid can you be to try to blame all this on Carol Grimaldi?

The County Legislature is a cesspool of corruption, and no one should apologize for them.

2/03/2009 11:41 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Anonymous - It sounds like you know a fair amount about the background, so let me set you straight on a few very important points.

Carol Grimaldi was an excellent leader of the Jackson County Ethics Commission - that was the problem. It was her responsibility to investigate ethical complaints, and she did it.

The cost associated with investigation were solely the responsibility of the legislators. Their refusal to give documents and answers was the reason she had to hire a lawyer.

The incredibly sad thing is that you apparently think ethics allegations ought to be handled with a few phone calls. That is the root of the problem.

If, in fact, the Jackson County legislature exempted itself from ethics code enforcement simply because they were angry that Carol Grimaldi did her job, they owe her and the voters a huge apology.

Finally, I agree that a couple of the legislators are good public servants, but they are going along with some real snakes. If you have the ear of any of them, please tell them that this problem is not going to go away with a little time. If they are going to fix it, they would be smart to fix it right away, because this is gaining steam.

2/04/2009 7:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, First, to be clear on this point, I am not "blaming" Grimaldi or anyone for this situation. I am simply stating why it happened the way it did, and that Grimaldi's "blank check" theory for the ethics commission provided all the amunition necessary to do what they did (she should have been more prudent with public money during a massive layoff/budget cut).

I do have the ear of at least 2, maybe 3 of the legislators. I beleive that they are willing and able to fix this. However, very little will be done until the new ethics commission is in place (Once again, just saying it like it is. My preference is that they fix it yesterday).

In short, this needs to be fixed. the legislature as a whole will pay a major price in their elections if this isn;t fixed by then. But I have hope that it will be.

2/04/2009 9:50 AM  

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