This letter is to comment on Sen. Pro Tem Tim Ashe’s comments regarding the S.8 bill on the scope of an ethics commission and its powers, as published in the VTDigger, on January 17, 2017. His comments strike me as lacking administrative experience. I hope that my comments can help him to understand that serious lacks of ethics in Vermont’s governments seriously undermines trust in fair decision making throughout the State.
Proper ethics standards should not be vaguely determined by each incoming governor and rescission of those by the previous governor. It is inadequate to accept an officials statement under oath denying conflict of interest. Officials can, intentional or unintentially, confuse separation of their private and public interests. It is time to establish a full court press for ethical behavior by elected and quasi-judicial office holders and to define definitions and processes, by statute, to abolish such conflicts. The current Judicial Code of Ethics provides a starting point for such definitions. An ethics process which addresses all complaints of conflicts of the public’s interest, anticipated or not, needs to be established. The core of S.8 is that the citizens of the Vermont must be able to trust in the honest legislation, administration and enforcement of the laws of Vermont.
Sen, Ashe’s comment implying $300,000 is an exorbitant cost to assure honest government is not a service to the public of this State. Assurance of honest government is worth far more and should have a higher priority than any other Vermont expenditure.
Secretary of State Jim Condos is far better experienced and informed than is Sen. Pro Tem Ashe. That opinion is based upon forty-six years of observing the politics of Vermont and being delinquent tax collector, constable, listor and chair of a planning commission at the town level to being Vice President of the Northwest Citizens for Responsible Growth. NWCRG members observed conflicts of the public’s interest, corruption, in its losing battle against a Walmart Store in St. Albans. The Walmart permitting process that occurred is an ethical embarrassment to our State.
It is important and necessary that a dedicated group for the purpose of acting in response to ethics complaints be established. Of perhaps greater importance is where it should be located, in this State’s government. The organization must be removed from all politics of state and local government. I recommend that it report to the Vermont Supreme Court and be governed by the VSC’s Judicial Code of Ethics.
It need not be ‘a full-fledged, large bureaucracy’ as envisioned by Sen. Ashe. ‘Experience of what kinds of complaints are coming in’ is irrelevant. All should be considered for legitimacy. Complaints should be encouraged and rewarded, as found justified and worthy by judiciary.
To substantiate the above comments concerning the permitting of the Walmart Store in St. Albans, a chronology of ethics problems which I composed during that legal battle is available at: http://witchcat.ws/Consequences/timeline.html.
Perry Cooper, Bakersfield