Thursday, April 19, 2007

April 19, 2007 Hamblen Ethics Committee: Fox Guarding the Henhouse?

An ethics policy for Hamblen County will be a topic of discussion prior to today's meeting of the full Hamblen County Commission.

Originally, County Attorney Rusty Cantwell took a CTAS sample ethics policy, made revisions, and presented it to county commission. No action was taken on his proposal over the past several months.

Cantwell's proposal could have been a lot more stringent, but it was OK. The major problem, in my opinion, was that the 5-member ethics committee that was designed to provide oversight of ethical violations was composed primarily of county commissioners along with one countywide officer holder.

Does "fox guarding the henhouse" come to mind?

In March, I spoke to the Public Services Committee and noted that Knox County had an ethics committee which included several "non-government" members.

I also gave a copy of a Shelby County proposal to Chair Nancy Phillips to copy and provide to all commissioners. The Shelby County proposal includes an ethics committee composed entirely of "non-government" individuals.

Afterwards the Public Services Committee voted to revise the local ethics committee to include at least some members who were not government officials or government employees and to submit this to the full commission.

Then the wheels started working behind-the-scenes. The ethics proposal was not presented or voted upon at the March meeting of the full commission. Instead, it was decided to have CTAS representative Rick Hall come and address commission about ethics right before today's commission meeting.

Having Mr. Hall appear now (after 5-6 months of looking at this) is a delaying tactic.
Somehow, we will end up with a "government ethics committee" made up entirely of "government officials" or at least a majority of "government officials."

Independent citizen oversight or input? Not needed and not wanted in Hamblen County.

Fox guarding the henhouse? Probably.

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