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Ethics Deformed (Pt. 3 cont.)

The Contrast (cont.)

 

  The contrast between the two Ethics Ordinance proposals begins with an understanding of the two audit reports mentioned in the previous post on this topic, (Thursday, May 07, 2009, “Ethics Deformed”). The contrast must go from there to the discussion of notable differences between the differing proposals.

  From the very beginning of the two proposals differences are noticed. For instance, under the definition of “Metro Officer”  in Ken Fleming’s proposal, (pg. 3) a Metro Officer includes not only the obvious government office holders such as mayor and council representative, but also “any such other similar managerial type position or position having the authority to make policy, enter contracts over $10,000, make purchases over $10,000, or with supervisory authority over subordinates”. This phrase is missing from Marianne Butler’s bill. The reason for this is not coincidental, if one views the facts pertaining to those who have opposed the Fleming proposal, as well as his definition of a Metro Officer.

   One of the individuals that has been most critical of Fleming’s proposal is Bob Henderson (Dem.- 14th Dist.). Mr. Henderson would have reason to not desire this phrase be admitted in the ordinance. In late 2004, Sarah Lynn Cunningham filed an ethics complaint against various individuals including Bob Henderson, Bud Schardein of MSD, and a couple of other individuals with MSD. Though the case was dropped because of insufficient evidence in 2008, it had made it’s rounds through the court system. One of the courts that ruled in the case was the Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals. On case number 06-CI-002978, the court stated that “the Metro Ethics Code does not apply to the employees of the Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District” (page 2). After that brief statement, they also stated that “Our view, however, is that although the legislature could clearly subject the MSD to the local government’s Code of Ethics, thus far it has not done so.” With the Fleming proposal, the aforementioned subjection of entities utilized by Metro Government for the purposes of serving the citizens of Louisville, moves closer to being a possibility.

  In the Fleming proposal, Section 21.02 dealing with Standards of Conduct has a clause that states “No Metro Officer shall use, or permit to be used, his/her public office, or any confidential information, as defined for the purpose of securing financial benefit for himself/herself, any member of his/her family, or any business or nonprofit organization with which such officer is associated.” This is not in the Butler/Ackerson proposal. The Marianne Butler proposal has many more statements that directly oppose the audit reports. Perhaps the most disturbing is the clause that is inserted, that according to Councilman Bob Henderson and others encourages accountability to those making the claims.

  In the Louisville Metro Government Office of Internal Audit Report on the Ethic Program, two of the recommendations mentioned in the report on page 18 states thus:

  “Employee inquiries and allegations should be treated in confidence and responded to promptly.

  “Employees should be free to report possible violations without fear of retribution.”

  Marianne Butler (Dem- 15th Dist), and Jon Ackerson (Rep- 18th Dist), has put together a proposal that absolutely ignores that recommendation. Section 21.06 on Complaints states, in part, “Any Metro Officer who is the subject of a complaint filed with the Ethics Commission shall be afforded due process by the Commission including, but not limited to, all of the following rights…”. “The complaint shall state the individual’s name and address and contact information including telephone number, as well as fax number and e-mail address, …”. When one provides personal information to the Council member whom is the recipient of a complaint is not allowing employees to be free to report violations, and provides evidence that the potential for retribution is very real.

  Further, on page 16, the proposal states “The complaining party shall provide the names and addresses of all individuals which the complaining party believes have information to support the violation along with a summary of what information the complaining party believes each in the individuals has to support the alleged violation.” Not only is the individual that is making the complaint enforced to provide private information and details to the citizen or employee filing the complaint, but the individual that files the complaint would also be responsible for providing personal information of all others supporting the complaint.

  Even a bigger issue is that the consequence is that if one files information that is found to be inaccurate, they can be punished by fine of $1,000. This punishment is not listed in any report, and is unique to the area, though allowed under state law. In various other states, if an individual files a false claim against another knowingly, then the individual can be sued in a court of law. This would give special rights to Metro employees; rights that are not given to the general public.

  Right now, under Metro Government law, if a neighbor was to contact the police department, the Animal Control, the Child Protection Service, or the Code Enforcement and allege an infraction or issue a complaint, neither service would be allowed to give you the name or identity of the individual or group that contacted them. Under law, these entities of government would be restricted in any and all information that they could share with you. There has yet to be an investigative body in local government that would inform you of the accuser’s name. Under the Butler proposal, there would be one- the Ethics Commission, and that is only if a Metro Officer is accused.

  Where Mr. Fleming’s proposal allows a unilateral acceptance of fair investigation of anonymous complaints, Mrs. Butler’s proposal requires a known investigation from an individual whose personal information is provided to the accused before any investigation is performed.

 

 

 Why would any politician desire to keep possible ethical violations from coming forth and being disclosed? Who would dare support such extreme measures to ensure that complaints are not made, and utilize possible punishments as a form of harassment? In Monday’s report, we will approach those questions in more depth…

May 8, 2009 - Posted by | Proposed Ordinances, Series Issue | , , , , ,

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