Code of Ethics

Earlier today I was listening to Sam Olens discuss his race for Attorney General. One of the points he brought up really got me thinking.

Olens brought up two sections of the Georgia Code, O.C.G.A. 45-10-1 and 45-10-3. Both of these laws are found under the state’s ethics code

The first one applies to both elected officials and non-elected officials in government:

There is established for and within the state and for and in all governments therein a code of ethics for government service which shall read as follows:

CODE OF ETHICS FOR GOVERNMENT SERVICE

Any person in government service should:

I. Put loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or government department.

II. Uphold the Constitution, laws, and legal regulations of the United States and the State of Georgia and of all governments therein and never be a party to their evasion.

III. Give a full day’s labor for a full day’s pay and give to the performance of his duties his earnest effort and best thought.

IV. Seek to find and employ more efficient and economical ways of getting tasks accomplished.

V. Never discriminate unfairly by the dispensing of special favors or privileges to anyone, whether for remuneration or not, and never accept, for himself or his family, favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his governmental duties.

VI. Make no private promises of any kind binding upon the duties of office, since a government employee has no private word which can be binding on public duty.

VII. Engage in no business with the government, either directly or indirectly, which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his governmental duties.

VIII. Never use any information coming to him confidentially in the performance of governmental duties as a means for making private profit.

IX. Expose corruption wherever discovered.

X. Uphold these principles, ever conscious that public office is a public trust.

This code is almost verbatim to the Federal Code of Ethics passed by the Congress in 1980 (a copy of which hangs framed on my wall in my home office).

45-10-3 deals with service on Boards and Commissions:

Notwithstanding any provisions of law to the contrary, each member of all boards, commissions, and authorities created by general statute shall:

(1) Uphold the Constitution, laws, and regulations of the United States, the State of Georgia, and all governments therein and never be a party to their evasion;

(2) Never discriminate by the dispensing of special favors or privileges to anyone, whether or not for remuneration;

(3) Not engage in any business with the government, either directly or indirectly, which is inconsistent with the conscientious performance of his governmental duties;

(4) Never use any information coming to him confidentially in the performance of governmental duties as a means for making private profit;

(5) Expose corruption wherever discovered;

(6) Never solicit, accept, or agree to accept gifts, loans, gratuities, discounts, favors, hospitality, or services from any person, association, or corporation under circumstances from which it could reasonably be inferred that a major purpose of the donor is to influence the performance of the member’s official duties;

(7) Never accept any economic opportunity under circumstances where he knows or should know that there is a substantial possibility that the opportunity is being afforded him with intent to influence his conduct in the performance of his official duties;

(8) Never engage in other conduct which is unbecoming to a member or which constitutes a breach of public trust; and

(9) Never take any official action with regard to any matter under circumstances in which he knows or should know that he has a direct or indirect monetary interest in the subject matter of such matter or in the outcome of such official action.

The difference starkest difference between the two is O.C.G.A. 45-10-4, which allows for an investigation and removal from office for members of boards, commissions and authorities.

There is no similar provision for 45-10-1. In other words, while the law tells elected officials what is ethical and what is not, the law has no teeth to act.

Now it should be noted that each legislative chamber has an ethics committee with the power to expel a member, but that is only within the legislature.

Many times the philospophy is to let the political process work itself out, hope that the voters will reject the candidate who has shown poor judgment in their dealings, especially if they have racked up ethics charges and fines.

However, there are some situations where the political atmosphere is such that it is difficult, if not impossible, to get the local authorities to investigate, charge, arrest, indict, or put on trial a local official.

It is far too often the unfortunate task for the Feds to become the actors in order to clean up the corruption.

Part of the role of the AG’s office should be to indict when the local system is unwilling, or too involved, to act, long before a federal case has to be made.

Millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted each year by corruption and/or the lawsuits that may arise from those who were harmed. An active AG’s office could very well save taxpayers money by cracking down on corruption before it starts.

17 comments

  1. Many counties and local governments, including Bibb County, have adopted codes. Problem is, they are not enforced or challenged. Finding an attorney who will push the issue is like chasing the wind.

  2. Technocrat says:

    Can you imagine a State were the employees were ethical and motivated to actually work to a high standard of efficiency [at least 4 hours per day] in a 4 day week.
    Oh there are a few pockets like Natural Resources, Arson investigation, and other Policing like agencies.
    Most of what I’ve seen over the years is one permanent mental coffee break Zombies awaiting vesting and retirement.

  3. Goldwater Conservative says:

    Well…the first step that can be taken is to eliminate the idea that political contributions are protected as free speech.

    Otherwise, I, along with my peers, will always be able to get a meeting with and listen to by your congressmen…because we can afford to contribute $4800+ (and raise much much more per) cycle than you.

    • Contributions are not unlimited free speech, that’s why they can be capped, according to the SCOTUS.

      If we take the ability to for a person to get individual supporters to help them buy air time, direct mail, phone lines, pay staff, pay rent, etc, then only the independently wealthy can run.

      What is your solution, GC?

      • Goldwater Conservative says:

        Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. A few things need to change…both with campaign finance and elections in general.

        For one, I do like PACs and lobbyists having access to Congressmen. Congressmen, for the most part, aren’t policy experts. I think the PAC community and their lobbyists have alot to contribute (other than money) that the public doesn’t and they are a vital part of our system.

        I do think, however, that there are ways to make of elected officials more responsive to their constituencies. For one, we have a problem with the playing field. Incumbents have too big an advantage in elections. I do not like public funding as it has been outlined in the past. Public matching funds are ridiculous.

        The airwaves belong to the public though. I have suggested in the past that the FCC, along with the FEC, issue vouchers for campaigns for meeting certain fundraising requirements.

        One of the things I like about our campaign finance laws in this country is that they, for the most part, require candidates to have a certain level of personal success to raise enough money to get elected. Since the late 90s we have seen huge jump in the costs of successful campaigns and it is putting even highly qualified challengers into a bigger disadvantage. The average successful challenger raise about $850k in 1998 to get elected. Last year it was more like $1.7mil. That is a little too high.

        It is important that we keep private financing in the process. After all…I wouldn’t trust a Bobby Saxon or a Bill Gillespie with matching funds…nor do I want the process to give them an unearned advantage. But, allotting a campaign that raises $300k “x” amount of points to use for placing television advertisements would be more beneficial than giving them an extra hundred grand. This would apply to both incumbents and challengers. Self funding would be exempt. Contribution limits should be lowered…particularly for PACs. This would be incremental (ie $300k get you 300 points, every $100k raised after that get you 100 points up to $600k or $700k) and wouldn’t cost the taxpayers anything (after all, the FCC licenses programming).

        Details would need to be worked out, obviously, but this would definitely help The People in a quest for a more responsive Congress.

        Lastly, well two things, voting should be something you earn. We should have a test (federally mandated for federal elections…let the state do what they like for their positions) that one must pass before being allowed to register. I would also like to see a federal law, or Constitutional amendment, requiring districts to be drawn with 0 partisan, racial, ethnic, etc bias. I think having 11 districts in GA that are decided strictly by party (3 or 4 by race) is destructive. I have been fortunate to live in the 9th district…I only hope the next congressmen is as trustworthy as Deal. I think having 435 “targeted” races would be healthy for our system. I always here people complain about Congress…”throw them all out” is a common rant. Having 435 congressional districts in this country with a Cook partisan index of 0 would definitely get these @$$holes to wake up and start doing their jobs. This, also, would mitigate any change in advertising rates considering the volume in which air time would be purchased by campaigns. Rather than having a couple hundred campaigns buying air time there should be 900 buying airtime in large amounts.

        Or maybe I am just crazy. I mean…how can somebody really expect Congress to pass a bill requiring them to do whats best for their constituents?

  4. Technocrat says:

    As a young man having escaped from Georgia, in the early 70’s I was involved with Congressman Gallagher and Sen. Pete Williams of New Jersey. Later during the Great Cable TV Franchise Acquistion Wars of the 70’s, I wined and dined multiple hundreds of different City Councils from all over US.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_on_the_World
    Then on to 21 for dinner in the wine cellar.
    http://www.21club.com/web/onyc/wine_cellar_pano.jsp
    Memories of an era long ago, but they still happen for many others.

  5. ready2rumble says:

    The other issue is that the legislature exempts themselves from Open Records laws. If they believe in transparency, they should change that.

Comments are closed.