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Ethical behavior is absolutely important

By Staff | May 9, 2014

It was with complete shock and dismay that I listened to County Commission President Walt Pellish voice his thoughts that requiring ethics training or requiring members of county boards and commissions to sign an ethics agreement was “political nonsense” and “completely unnecessary.”

Mr. Pellish contends that all of the boards and commissions appointed by the county give their new members training in ethical matters. Currently being a member of a board, and a past member of others, I simply say, not true.

From my personal observation, boards do not provide training; a new member simply shows up and starts “work.”

Mr. Pellish also contends that individuals applying to various boards or commissions do so without any personal agenda. To that, I also say, not true. For any individual who has been in Jefferson County for any amount of time and watched applications and appointments to various boards, it is clear that those who apply to sit on things such as the planning commission, health department, whichever board, do so because they have have a connection to what that specific board does.

That is not to say that those who apply and are appointed come in with ulterior motives to somehow unethically divert action of a specific board; however, one tends to vote toward one’s interests.

Having ethics training on when a board member should recuse from a vote; what defines pecuniary interests, etc., is something the county should consider as proper training for volunteers on boards, not something that is “onerous” or “an assumption of guilt” as labeled by Pellish.

I would say that Mr. Pellish “doth protest too much.” Those who wish to serve and “give back” to their community should have no problem signing such a code.

As voiced by Commissioner Lyn Widmyer, it is a responsible action on the part of the county; one to help gain public trust. Kudos to the commissioners who agree that a Code of Ethics is important to those who serve the county, even on a volunteer basis. The group should create such an oath and have all sign it. Accountability is necessary when considering all the decisions these volunteers make.