Monday, December 08, 2008

Teeth needed for municipal ethics and state corruption

Last week I mentioned that I spoke at a state-level public hearing on municipal ethics reform. Now the MRJs Jesse Buchanan offers this piece:

Town Councilor Tim White spoke before the Municipal Ethics Task Force in Waterbury, urging the state to increase the power of state's attorneys, a move that he said would send a message to towns about ethics.

"In terms of municipal ethics, it would strike fear in the hearts of people," he said.

I absolutely mean it. And while I sincerely appreciate the efforts of Senator Gayle Slossberg and Representative James Spallone, all the ethics reform in Hartford is still drastically lacking.

Sure, Hartford says it's trying to put our nickname (Corrupticut) to bed in the trash heap of history. But before that happens, we need at least three things to happen:

1) strengthened rules
2) strengthened investigating tools
3) strengthened punishment

And therein lies the trick that the powers-that-be in Hartford want everyone to ignore. Yes, the rules (i.e. state contracting reform) have been strengthened. And yes, the punishments (i.e. pension revocation) have been strengthened. And other reforms (i.e. campaign finance) have been enacted.

But they ignore a critical piece of the puzzle.

State level prosecutors still lack the ability to investigate wrongdoing. So all the other reforms are left largely ineffective.

For evidence of the continuing inability of state level officials to deal with crime, look no further than the FBI's ongoing investigation of Shelton's Public Official #1.

As for my thoughts on the relationship between municipal ethics and state corruption... if:

1) state's attorneys had the power of subpoena and
2) we could convene grand juries

I think both would have a chilling effect on municipal officials who even consider anything that might be in a gray area. And they'd have the added benefit of actually giving teeth to state contracting reform and pension revocation, etc.

But will these two reforms be enacted? No. That would put the Gang of 187 at risk for being held accountable. And they can't have that.

Tim White

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I beleive M MIlone spoke and stated there had not been eany ethical issues since he took over in 1990--or whenever. But I seem to recall the former Town Engineer being 'scolded' for taking vendor sponsored trips or something like that about 8-10 years ago. To state blindly that there is NO corruption in Cheshire is assinine.