Sunday, October 23, 2011

Broward's Ethics Code Under Attack

Remember last fall when county voters, sick of hearing about convicted and corrupt politicians, (Fifteen Broward politicians or their family members have been charged with or imprisoned for public corruption crimes in the last two years, and there are more to come.) approved an ethics code and voted to have it apply to county and city officials? Well as predicted, and as sure as power corrupts, the long awaited code was immediately loathed by elected officials and the whining for change began. What they are moaning about sends a clear message about why they ran for office.

The county ethics committee, as was their charge, assembled a tough code. Within milliseconds of its publication the County Commissioners were inundated with calls to water it down. In response (and in a CYA self defense move) the county asked the League of Cities to look it over and make suggestions for revision.

The League of Cities is made up of elected officials, enough said. They came up with a revised code which, with a wink at ethics, was guaranteed to allow things to continue as they are by inserting a bunch of loopholes .

The County code bans all gifts from lobbyists, the League revision seemed to say, our politicians are hungry and lobbyists have lots of money, let them buy us dinner, what can it hurt? Of course we won’t feel indebted to them, or any more inclined to vote their way. Yeah, right.

The County code says elected officials may not lobby before any municipality. Whoa, the League said, no fair. OK we won’t lobby our own commission, but the others should be fair game. Of course their being commissioners won’t sway the vote. Yeah, right.

The League proposed that municipal commissions be allowed to vote to opt out of the code by a four fifths vote by the commissioners. I guess that went even too far for the members of the League as it was withdrawn at the last minute. I give them credit for honest emotions in this one, it showed how much they fear and hate the code; I guess they thought it might not go over well with the voters, Duh! (Mayor Peggy Noland tried to eliminate the Deerfield Beach code and is still stinging from the reaction from throngs of residents who came to the commission meeting with “keep the code” signs.)

For more on this see: http://www.cityethics.org/content/broward-league-cities-poor-ethics-recommendations
and
http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/broward/blog/matrixethics.doc

The League of Cities asked the municipalities to vote on the changes. Of 30 cities who voted on whether to water down the code and accept the League of Cities changes, 15 voted YES, 6 including Deerfield Beach Abstained, only brave little Oakland Park voted flat out NO (pretty sure we can thank Mayor Suzanne Boisvenue for that, she is one of the rarest of the rare, a politician who cares about the people and not her own gain.) http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/news/politics/broward/blog/2011/06/which_broward_cities_voted_for.html

Yay! For the County Commissioners who voted no to the League changes and approved the tough code.

Did the whining stop? Nope, we now have elected officials deliberately misunderstanding the code provisions and coming up with ludicrous reactions to it. The Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick says some commissioners will quit if they can’t lobby. Coconut Creek Commissioner Lisa Aaronson objects to not being able to get a bottle of water from a lobbyist. The most ridiculous reactions are from Lauderhill Mayor Kaplan, who now won’t talk to reporters as he says they are lobbyists, and Southwest Ranches Councilman Breitkreuz who won’t talk to residents concerned about their neighborhood unless they register as lobbyists and pay a fee (nothing in the new code about that).

Why these over the top reactions? These are the opening shots in the war to get rid of the code. Politicians are fond of saying that codes shouldn’t be needed as we should elect honest people, such as them. Yeah, right.

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