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ethics oped

ethics oped

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Published by ched macquigg

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Published by: ched macquigg on Jun 30, 2011
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02/01/2013

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No one is perfect. The devil is in the details. No good deed goes unpunished… Everysaying a cliché and every saying accurately describes Bernalillo County’s EthicsOrdinance. The ordinance was – I believe – an honest attempt to protect the publicfrom both the perception and reality of misbehavior by county employees andelected officials. It created a set of standards and a process for enforcing thosestandards.Allegations against any county employee or elected official can be made through asworn complaint or anonymously. A web portal was set up to collect anonymouscomplaints and not surprisingly the county’s web portal quickly became the favoriteway to file a complaint.No one is perfect… In order to protect employees and officials from frivolouscomplaints, anonymous complaints are reviewed by an independent investigator todetermine the validity of the allegation and the applicability of the ordinance.Should facts supporting a violation be found, the ordinance requires that theInternal Audit Contractor “prepare the sworn complaint and present its investigationto the Ethics Board.” The ordinance clearly intends that a full board of five members be present to hearcomplaints – even providing for a replacement appointee where a member has aconflict of interest. To date, there have been three cases where the Internal Audit Contractor foundfacts that support a violation of the county’s Ethics Ordinance. Would it surprise youthat one of the complaints has been dismissed despite the fact that the full EthicsBoard hasn’t heard a case in well over a decade? It certainly surprised me. In fact, Iwas shocked! The devil is in the details… A constituent of mine recently quipped “is it any surprisethat they found a way around the ordinance when the ordinance itself was takenfrom Cook County Illinois?” In point of fact, the shortcut to dismissal wasn’t found inChicago, but right here in the City of Albuquerque.At the last full meeting of the Ethics Board in October of 2010, the County Attorneypresented the board with a set of Rules and Regulations that included languagefrom the City of Albuquerque Ethics Board creating a “review committee” of threemembers. The “review committee” – made up of Ethics Board members appointedby the Ethics Board Chair - has the authority to summarily dismiss complaints insecret prior to a public hearing. That’s how a case that was never heard by theEthics Board and never heard by the public was dismissed.At the time the dismissed case was “reviewed” by the “review committee,” therewere two members of the Ethics Board still waiting to be confirmed and one of thethree “review committee” members was an appointee of the accused. CountyAttorney Jeff Landers in a memo dated January 18, 2011, encouraged the three

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