Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sticking Your Head in the Sand

It's hard to understand the rhetoric regarding the weak ethics rules in state government. There is no need to have ethics rules because of the historically low levels of corruption in the state?  I was surprised to read today that South Dakota got rid of its ethics commission three decades ago.

Public officials should want to do everything to preserve the public interest and trust of  its citizens.  My impression of Pierre has always been that of a government town. People there work for state government. They rotate between jobs at the higher levels dependent upon who is in office but there is always a place to land if you lose your job to a new governor. I am not saying the people in Pierre are corrupt or unethical. The point is we don't really know one way or another. There are no guiding standards. Tim Rave, chairman of the SD Republican Party says he sees little evidence that stricter rules are needed. Why look for trouble when there isn't any, he says.

Daugaard spokesman Tony Venhuizen said the state has had low levels of corruption, so it's not clear that new rules are needed. He said what is key is having strong moral leadership in the governor's office. Well, that's not the point. The time to put ethics rules in place is when you don't think you have a problem, not when you do. It has nothing to do with strong moral leadership. It has everything to do with  transparency in government and a commitment to ensuring the public trust of the people you represent.

The naivete regarding this issue is beyond understanding. What is also ridiculous is making the issue of ethics standards a republican or democratic issue. It's an issue of  all the people regardless of which party you belong to.  How can anyone be against establishing ethics standards? To use the excuse that there isn't a problem is beyond reasonableness and good common sense.

The definition of ethics:
  • a guiding philosophy
  • a consciousness of moral importance
  • the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.
  • the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group
Sticking one's head in sand is not good government policy. It has nothing to do with the fact that nothing has happened so there is no reason to establish principles of conduct.

1 comment:

  1. Ethics rules are indeed a critical component of government and should be implemented at every level. Unfortunately, those charged with oversight of the "ethics rules" system must be appropriately brought to task, disciplined/removed and holes in the system repaired when they fail to hold up to standard! (Re. not so distant past City Ethics Board activities!)