Bill Schubart: Ethics Commission Well Worth Its Cost
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The Vermont Legislature is at an impasse trying to decide whether to establish and fund a statewide ethics commission. There has been considerable favorable testimony by Vermonters, ethicists and Secretary of State Jim Condos, who has been a relentless champion of government transparency, inclusion and establishing such a commission. Each time VTDigger runs a story on ethics legislative testimony, the comments from Vermonters run almost universally in favor of establishing such a commission. Legislative arguments against it are disingenuous:
• In this year of budget constraints, we can’t afford another government bureaucracy ($330,000 of $3.5 billion);
• Financial disclosure of possible conflicts will discourage Vermonters from government service;
• We’re all good people and we all know each other;
• What if an ethics commission ran amok and looked for self-serving behavior where there was none?
• An ethics commission would not have prevented any of the recent malfeasance, etc.
While we are mostly good people, we’re also fallible. We’ve seen a spate of recent embezzlements in the municipal sector. We’ve seen government officials pirouette from their office to earn more working for those they oversaw. Our Senate has just seen a dismal sexual scandal among its own. The EB-5 Jay Peak scandal is the largest in our 225-year history and one of the largest in the SEC’s own history.