Friday, June 3, 2011

MSB Assembly To Eliminate Ethics Board, Take Bribes! (??)

--- by Jim Sykes

ALERT– Mat-Su Assembly to Eliminate Ethics Board, Raise Conflict of Interest Limit from $50 to $5,000
Public Hearing and Vote Tuesday, June 7, 2011, MSB Assembly Meeting 6 p.m.

A rather sudden and shocking proposal (Ordinance 11-060) that has quickly come up for public hearing and a vote at the Mat-Su Borough Assembly June 7th. The proposal, which could invite big money influence on Assembly members for certain projects, would eliminate the Ethics Board and raise personal conflict of interest limits from the current $50 to $5,000. Legislators are limited to $250.

The current independent ethics process would be handed over to a single paid administrative hearing officer who would receive a case, investigate, prosecute and serve as judge and jury.

The Ethics Board produced a comprehensive revision to the Ethics Code in February (Ordinance 11-022) scheduled to be considered in August. All of the issues raised by this new proposal (Ordinance 11-060) are actually addressed within the Ethics Board update. There is no good reason to adjust the Ethics Code before considering larger revisions in two months. If the Mat-Su Borough Assembly approves Ordinance 11-060 on Tuesday night there will no longer be an Ethics Board.

The current and proposed Ethics Board revisions provide for an independent board that requires equal consideration of facts and deliberative process that guarantee the rights to all participants. People across the political spectrum are expected to oppose this attempt to eliminate one of the fundamental public processes of good government.

Call or email Assembly representatives and ask them not to pass Ordinance 11-060 so that the subjects in the proposal can be addressed within the scheduled August consideration of the Ethics Board comprehensive code update. (See points below).

Testify at the Public Hearing June 7th. Currently the agenda has the hearing on the Ethics ordinance as the fifth and last item scheduled for public hearings that start at 7:00 p.m., but it could change. Some points to consider and web links below.

Ordinance 11-060 should not be passed because:
Ordinance 11-060 raises the level of personal conflict of interest from $50 to $5,000! It doesn’t pass the red face test. Even legislators in Juneau have a limit of $250.

Ordinance 11-060 takes away the independence, fairness and deliberations of the Ethics Board and relegates the entire ethics process to a single Assembly-paid hearing officer who would decide whether or not to take a case, investigate, and serves as prosecutor, judge and jury.

There is no reason to change to the ethics code before August, when the Assembly is scheduled to consider the Ethics Board comprehensive code update (Ordinance 11-022), which addresses all of the same subjects raised within Ordinance 11-060. The current law has been in place for 17 years except for some fairly minor changes.

Should the Assembly vote to eliminate the Ethics Board on Tuesday June 7th, the Ethics Board code revisions (Ordinance 11-022) scheduled for Assembly consideration in August would not happen because there would no longer be an Ethics Board.

The Ethics Board code update (Ordinance 11-022) scheduled for consideration in August, carefully designed a new process to greatly reduce legal expenses for attorney’s fees while retaining the independence and fairness of an independent investigation. The June 7th proposal (Ordinance 11-060) would also reduce expenses, but would eliminate independence, fairness, and due process that all cases deserve thorough deliberations by an independent Ethics Board.

Since the Mayor appoints, and the Assembly approves, the hiring of administrative hearing officers, a hearing officer would have an inherent conflict of interest should a case be filed against an Assembly member. Such a conflict would not arise under the current Ethics Board structure or the Ethics Board proposed revisions in Ordinance 11-022.

For the June 7th proposal that would eliminate the Ethics Board, 11-060 OR MSB Ethics Amendments 7Jun11 or

Ethics Board Comprehensive Update, ordinance 11-022, scheduled for consideration in August, 11-022 OR MSB Ethics Revision Aug11

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