Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dynamic Ethics Commission?

"How emblematic is it of Albany's challenges that the latest scandal involves the commission that's supposed to oversee ethics and lobbying? It's over the Troopergate matter again, the scandal that doesn't seem to die. State officials must recast this commission into one the public can trust."

Can the public trust itself?

Perhaps the new "Commission" should be akin to a rotating jury process, although not quite as "open ended." After all there are laws to be followed and facts to be applied.

The idea is that if there is a large pool of individuals involved, from diverse backgrounds, it is more likely it is that the result will be fair.

Can any "commission" appointed by powerful people ever be truly independent? Perhaps. But usually elected officials appoint folks who generally think as they do, so there will always be some sort of bias, whether overt or unintentional involved on the selection process I would suspect. The current political culture is too strong to really avoid this result.

So how to select these folks? How do we provide them with accurate, unbiased information upon which to render an fair judgment?

First we have to reform how information is made available (as we have been talking about for the past 15 years or so).

Perhaps the ethics laws themselves should be reformed. Are they too stringent so as to stifle creative work and restrict attracting quality public servants in the state or are they not restrictive enough?

What levels of investigation are there? Perhaps certain categories can be handled by a smaller appointed "commission." Perhaps larger cases should have "regional" directors elected by the public. Elected members may have no political affiliation. Perhaps all cases should be handled by this larger commission.

After all if you wish to "regain" the public trust shouldn't you allow the public to be part of the process?

As with any reform, it is important to understand how the change will affect not only the area contemplated, buy any ancillary issue as well.

This why we advocate the "meta" approach for comprehensive change and the direct engagement of the public and additionally, providing the public with the tools they need to assist in their own governance.

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