Two Versions of Ethics

Two versions for the practice of ethics in government have been making headlines. One comes from Walter Shaub Jr., Director of the Office of Government Ethics, who announced his resignation. As pointed out in the article, “Ethics chief resigns after clashes with Trump administration,” 7-7-17, Shaub stated that the “principle of public service is a public trust” and loyalty to ethics must take precedence over private gain. Finding it difficult to practice this concept, he resigned. Hence he has practiced what he preached.

The second version of a push for ethics in government comes from
Councilwoman Vicki Almond. Her version of ethics as described in “Balto. Co. council approves ethics bill,” 7-4-17, amounts to a big joke. There’s one major problem with her requirement of ethics training for top county officials, registered lobbyists, members of county boards including the Revenue Authority, Planning Board and Liquor Board. Who is going to conduct the ethics training courses?

By my standards, finding qualified individuals for such a position would be like finding a needle in a haystack. Although we have a county and state ethics commission, one should question what they really do.

If one really wants to be an ethical politician, it is very simple. Make a commitment to your constituents that you will not take any campaign contributions because they are disguised bribes. You will serve one term without pay and make that one term the end of your political office work. And, you will tell the truth all of the time, not just some of the time.

For those who maximize the importance of being ethical, these commitments are very easy. On the other hand, for those who minimize the significance of being ethical, these promises are very hard.

Wasting taxpayer money on ethics training classes and passage of legislation introduced by Vicki Almond for banning campaign contributions during the county’s rezoning process represent superficial attempts to make ethics a matter of importance. However, they do little to really make a difference.

Ralph Jaffe
Teacher and Democratic candidate for governor in 2018 primary election
Baltimore

 

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