Ethics Reform in TN

Last week the TN ledge sent HB1874/SB1264 to the Governor for a signature. The bill specifically prohibits any person convicted of a felony in their capacity as an elected official from running for office. I call it the John Ford Bill.

Since the whole Tennessee Waltz thing hit, and the Ed Ford/Rickey Peete thing landed, I’ve often wondered why the hell anyone would trust a person convicted of BRIBERY with a public office. Peete still got elected, AFTER his conviction several years ago. I don’t get it. This law, if signed, removes the possibility of the voter being more stupid than normal.

Another bill, HB1757/SB0518 sponsored by my Rep in the House (DeBerry – 90) was sent to the Governor earlier last week would authorize Shelby County to “bring its administrative and legislative offices and employees within the scope of regulation by the Tennessee ethics commission, as if such officials were state officials” if we’ll foot the bill for the additional oversight cost. Why the hell wasn’t this already the case? Does the state not have supremacy over the county and city? Another no brainer.

So far, my favorite is the draft ethics code for the City of Memphis released back in March. It reads like a poorly translated VCR instruction manual. The new rules are 44 pages of basic common sense, just what the city code needed. I presume that Ed Ford and Rickey Peete will recuse themselves from the vote, whenever it actually happens…for obvious reasons.

All of these measures are a step in the right direction, but only address one side of the problem. The other side is that people will continue to suspect unethical behavior by various elected officials until the elected officials do something to prove their innocence. This is not a court of law, but a court of public opinion, juried by a group of people who generally misunderstand or hold suspect, much of what goes on in government and as such put highly emotional, if not irrational standards of conduct upon their elected officials. In some well-documented cases this skepticism is justified. As a result, government officials should go the extra mile to maintain some level of sqeakyness, if for no other reason than to remove the question from the public psyche. But so many don’t. Why should they? We’re not REALLY paying attention as a whole.

Coming Soon!…Transparency, it’s not just for ziploc bags anymore.

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