Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jackson County Serves as National Bad Example - Day 94 of the Jackson County Ethics Crisis

Out there in the real world, far from the shady world of the Jackson County legislative chambers or the Star's "Let it Be" newsroom, serious people pay real attention to ethical issues. One of the leading ethical resources for local government is City Ethics, a nonprofit organization devoted to best practices in ethics administration.

The nation is aghast at the behavior of our Legislature.

Way back in January, the resignation of the Jackson County Ethics Commission captured the attention of the national ethics community. Two months ago, the national ethics community was aware that, "When the entire ethics commission of a major county resigns, something is seriously wrong."

Last week, national attention turned our way again. In a post entitled "Legislators Fending Off Ethics Enforcement -- Who Needs Legislative Immunity?", City Ethics refocuses on the issues raised by the Jackson County Ethics Blackout. The national experts reach the same conclusion that Gone Mild has been pointing out all along:
When a legislative body makes ethics rules, but applies them only to others, it undermines the very trust in government that ethics programs are supposed to support. All the constitutional and other arguments . . . cannot change the view that legislators are just trying to get away with unethical conduct.

It's ironic that the national ethics press is able to reach that accurate and appropriate conclusion even in response to inaccurate and inappropriate statements.

Ethical Home Rule must return to Jackson County. The attempts of our Legislators to avoid accountability are embarrassing the County on a national basis. The County Legislature must be replaced in 2010, and the national shame brought to our community should help assure the ouster of those responsible.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

These links and many more chronicle the Jackson County Ethics debacle.

3/12/2009 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jay Leno read an article about the Ethics Commission mass resignations, from the Examiner newspaper, during a Mid-December monologue.

The audience roared with laughter but this confirms to me that everyone can easily see that JaCo Legislators are a pack of fools. They are oblivious to the black-eye they give to politics in this area.

3/12/2009 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Sophia said...

Your hyperlinks confuse me, Dan. Are you suggesting the linked Examiner pieces are examples of inaccurate and inappropriate statements?

3/12/2009 12:36 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Sophia -

I'm sorry if I was unclear. Yes, the links are inaccurate and inappropriate.

3/12/2009 10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you say, the LINKS are "inaccurate" and "inappropriate" or do you believe the ARTICLES are inaccurate and inappropriate?

3/13/2009 2:10 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Hah - wow, we're really having a failure to communicate here! The article linked at the word "inaccurate" is inaccurate, and the article linked at the word "inappropriate" is inappropriate.

3/13/2009 6:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For someone looking from the outside (like you Dan) it is your comment that stands stark as contrary to the facts.

Maybe you would grace your readers with some meat on them words?

3/13/2009 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's missing in the Code?

1. Of utmost concern to the Commission was the fact that, if enacted, the ethics ordinance would not apply to elected officials at all, which is incompatible with the Jackson County Charter.
2. The inclusion of a "duty to cooperate" with investigations by the County Counselor or the Ethics Commission could subject employees to a form of forced self-incrimination which would violate the Fifth Amendment (p.27).
3. The ordinance prohibits the solicitation of personal benefits related to office or employment, but the prohibition against otherwise receiving them has been deleted (p.30).
4. The provisions concerning felonies, dispensing of drugs, and complicity in violating the code, while well intended, are all overbroad, in that they prohibit conduct, which is otherwise appropriate (pp. 27, 28, and 30-31).
5. The prohibition against soliciting campaign contributions from county employees has been deleted (p. 41).
6. "[P]ublic officials" have been deleted from the provision, which imposes a duty to be honest and free of fraud or concealment of any wrongdoing during the seeking of public office (p. 43).
7. The notice provision outlined in the ordinance calls for simultaneous circulation of a complaint to complainant, respondent(s) and the commission with notification of the commission meeting date and time. As the commission must establish the meeting date and time, it must have the complaint immediately upon its receipt in order to make these arrangements. The actual practice of the commission as outlined in its Rules of Procedure provides for coordinated communication in a timely, responsive manner. The commission's procedures delineated in the code need to conform better to actual practice (p. 58).
8. Deletion of the commission's authority to conduct discovery (interrogatories and depositions) and issue subpoenas, as well as elimination of the commission's authority to determine for itself if outside counsel is required, despite the fact that all of these powers are authorized by Article XII, Section 6 of the Jackson County Charter (p. 62).

3/14/2009 2:04 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Sorry to be terse, anonymous. The inaccuracy and inappropriateness of the linked articles were not the point of my post, and I didn't want to distract the original post by going into detail.

The Pennell article is inaccurate in its claim that a legislator was "physically beaten" after a meeting. That's not what happened, and the description used to describe a tiny scuffle undercuts the truthfulness of the whole article. And the claim that his successor has been threatened with a similar beating is laughable and overly dramatic. Pennell's article is just paranoid and silly - and that comes from someone who shares his disgust with the Jackson County legislature. It also mischaracterizes the way the attorneys fees were incurred - the legislators retained the attorney because initial lawsuit was a farce, and they authorized him to file a countersuit.

The article by Witbolsfeugen suffers from many of the same flaws. I chose the word inappropriate, though, because it is basically an attack on the Selection Committee. While there could be some wisdom in changing the membership of the selection committee, anybody who hints that those individuals would compromise their integrity because their organizations may have some contractual relationships with the County is wildly inappropriate. The relationships may be a theoretical concern, but the individuals are great people doing work they never sought.

While Witbolsfeugen and Pennell may be making arguments that bear some similarity to those I've made, I do not associate myself with either, and I hope nobody associates me with them. On the other hand, I don't want to get sidetracked into a dispute with either of them - they aren't my focus, and they don't interest me in the slightest.

3/14/2009 10:44 AM  
Blogger craig said...

Ever hear the phrase "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"?
I understand your point, but Pennel at least had the balls to run for County Legislature and try to fix it from within. You have to respect that. It is something neither you nor I have done (yet). And WitbolsFuegen was arrested for holding a sign, he could seriously be seen as a martyr in this battle. Some people like to write those 2 off as nutcases, but they have been fighting the same battle that you are now fighting for a long time. They are starting to look more sane every day.

3/14/2009 11:18 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Exceedingly well stated, Craig. You make great points, but I still think the articles are inaccurate and inappropriate.

I completely agree, however, with the adage about enemies and friends. However, there is another one about guilt by association, and that gives me strong incentive not to be mistaken for an acolyte of either.

They don't need my permission or approval to keep doing what they do - they've been at it for years. I don't seek their assistance to do what I'm doing, either.

3/15/2009 9:39 AM  
Blogger craig said...

Good point about guilt by association. I think you may be better off just ignoring them and allowing the fight to go on 2 different fronts.
BTW, I forgot to mention I do respect the fact that you have put yourself out in the open with this blog. I may not agree with you about a lot of things, and I am just some guy in my basement, but I know you catch a lot of heat because of this and want you to know there is a level of respect out there for you for doing it.

3/15/2009 1:14 PM  

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