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Her Honor

Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, looks at ethical dilemmas, scandals, and best practices in government.

The following postings have been filtered by tag ethics commissioner. clear filter
  •  Attempt To Cut Ethics Budget Sends Wrong Message

    Friday, Jul. 22, 2011

    He insists it wasn’t an act of retaliation, but the congressman who proposed a 40% cut in the budget of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) was a target of an ethics investigation last year.

    Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina said he supported the amendment because “the work by the ethics office is at times abusive, causing unnecessary embarrassment of House members.” Rep. Steve King of Iowa went even further with his criticism, accusing the ethics office of violating “Roman law, English common law, and the decency of the House.”

    The vote was 102-302, and members were forced to go on the record rather than voting by voice. Acknowledging there may be some problems with the OCE, one congressman said the cuts were not the answer. Rep. Michael E. Capuano of Massachusetts called the cuts “draconian punishment” that look like an attempt to say “We’re the boss; you’re not.”

    The ethics office can investigate but not punish House members, and has looked into charges levied against both parties. While Mr. Watt’s case was referred to the committee, no charges were ever filed against him.

    Legislation seeking to silence ethical checks and balances only serves to add to the perception that all politicians are crooks. Whether it is the OCE or a local ethics commission doing the work, it’s good to remember the words of Sophocles: “Don’t kill the messenger.”

  •  Do You Need An Ethics Nanny?

    Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011


    The role of an ethics commission is an important one. It can provide an independent look at charges of impropriety, and be protected from the political impact of disciplinary hearings.
    A recent column in the Chronicle-Herald, a Canadian paper, criticizes the Halifax regional councillors for their proposal to hire an integrity commissioner. Describing such a person as an “ethics nanny,” Marilla Stephenson cites the cost of adding the position as one opposing argument. She says the 24-member council should be able to do the job themselves, even in a divisive and “backstabbing” environment.
    According to a story from CBC News, the Council adopted the code of conduct in May 2009, but without guidelines for implementation. “During that time, council has continued to grapple with two main violations of the code — leaks to the news media and questions surrounding abuse of alcohol at public functions.”
    Councilor Linda Mosher supports the new position, saying that self-policing doesn’t work. “So, if we don't have any third-party integrity commissioner or somebody that we can go to, these issues just keep coming and coming,” she said. "We owe it to the public. We're elected public officials. We have to treat people with dignity and respect and treat our taxpayers the same way."
    Do you think elected officials can “police” themselves when it comes to ethical behavior? In these difficult economic times is it worth the cost to add an integrity commissioner or create an ethics commission?
    Post your thoughts and best practices here.


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