Thursday, March 22, 2007

CHANGED MY MIND: The Ethics Commission wants to beef up it standards. By Geniusofdespair

Hallelujah! The Ethics Commission wants to beef up it standards. By Geniusofdespair
I have often complained about the toothless County Ethics Commission. Miami Herald’s Chuck Rabin reported today Tougher ethics standards sought for Dade. I give a lot of credit to Robert Myers, Executive Director of the Ethics Commission, for sticking his neck out on the chopping block. I don’t think the Commissioners are going to take kindly to your overhaul Robert. The Ethics Commission wants to create a new code of ethics for the county that would strengthen the commission's powers and responsibilities. Rabin reported:

“One board member, a retired judge, recently called the commission ''a weak instrument.'' At the same time, a University of Miami professor suggested that commission findings needed to stretch beyond being based on law, to include appearances of impropriety.” And:

Terilli, the former general counsel of The Miami Herald, is also open-minded about the review process, but says the commission's standards and mission need strengthening.
''I don't believe we should be limited to reviewing only what may be a violation of the law. Ethics is broader than that,'' said Terilli, who teaches a course at UM. The commission must act ``on the appearance of impropriety, whether or not that actually amounts to acts of impropriety.''

Yes, ethics is broader than the law. It is not just about breaking the law and that is what it has been under it’s current rules, it should include the appearance of impropriety.

For example, when a developer, who sells land/house packages only to the general public, sells just land (by itself) to the Chair of the Commission, that has an appearance of impropriety. When that same Commissioner gets free construction work by a developer (who benefits from his votes) that has an appearance of impropriety. The Ethics Commissioner, cleared both under its present mandate.

And what about this same Commissioner’s wife making an enormous profit on a deal, and she won’t disclose her partners and the location of the land she made that windfall profit on just last year. That slipped by everyone. I contend, since she does a joint tax return, it should be part of her husband's public record. He claims he does not know about her deal. Well, Commissioner Martinez, you must know because the IRS holds you as responsible as she is for the deal. You have the responsibility to know or you shouldn't have signed the tax return. But that is for the Herald to follow up on. They have the lawyers. I digress.

Ethics Department gets its funding from the County Commission. I doubt that these County Commissioners will do the overhaul Myers and the Ethics Commission want. Why would County Commissioners all shoot themselves in the foot? In fact, many other of the Commissioners escaped under ethics' narrow focus.

Get those resumes ready Robert. I don't think the County Commission will like your idea for an additional Ethics, Integrity and Accountability Task Force. But, I salute you for TRYING to get tougher.


Anonymous said...

it doesn't serve the people to have an ethics commission responsible to the body of government it reviews. it's counterintuitive. Just like many things at the county. such as the constitutional revision commission process. such as the airport and seaport not being run by port authorities.

Geniusofdespair said...

good points! the wolf guarding the hen-house.

Geniusofdespair said...

I got an email saying this ethics change falls woefully short of what is needed. I guess I am so unhappy with ethics that ANY change is an improvement to me..maybe I am too much of an optimist on this article's outlined changes.

Anonymous said...

Why should we have ANY confidence in the Miami Dade Ethics Commission, to do anything other than go through the motions and cover their own rears. What does Robert Myers DO all day? Investigate that which he cannot call an ethics violation? Count coffee beans?

Hallelujah? ... you're kidding, right?

Geniusofdespair said...

maybe i am wrong...I guess i can change it to:

Ethics Changes: A good start?