Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Question of Ethics in Indiana Politics

The State of Indiana has a pretty good Ethics Code, the major problem it only applies to the Executive Branch of our government. Somehow the rest of the state got left behind. In fact you can go to the following website and see the information on the code.

But what about everyone else? That is what I want to know as a taxpayer and I am sure you do.

For example, I don’t believe it is ethical for any elected official to have a contract or be employed by a government or government agency. Let me give you a few examples: An elected Township Board Member is also under contract to the Town that is in the Township. This person makes approximately $16,500 a year under this contract. Can this person be fair and maybe vote against the town relative to Township business? An interesting ethical question.

Another example: I do not believe any elected official can be allowed to hold a government position that can be effected by outcomes of laws they enact. The state enacts a law on personal policy that effects county government and a lawmaker is also a county employee. Should this lawmaker be allowed to vote on the bill, I would say not, but in Indiana no problem. In fact I don’t think any one in Indiana should be allowed to hold two government positions at any level. Whether elected, appointed or employed.

So we have is an Ethics Code for State Executive and Administrative Branches of government, the Courts have a code of Conduct, but Indiana is one of 27 states in which no outside agency oversees ethical conduct of state legislators. It is one of 18 of those states where no ethics agency oversees any aspect of disclosure.

Is legislative oversight defined in statute? Yes. Indiana also has the House Legislative Ethics Committee and the Senate Legislative Ethics Committee, which are enabled by Indiana Code 2-2.1-3. But, it mainly deals with money, gifts, business and lobbyists. It should also deal with same factors that apply to the Executive Branch. I guess the lawmakers who wrote this did not want to measure up to the same standards as the state employees.

Then we get to local government, and that is something where the Wild West takes over. Each City, Town, Township may enact its own code of conduct and then they can ignore it. In many cases they have one that applies to workers, but somehow the elected officials don’t seem to have one.
Its time for a fresh look, its time for an ethical change.
My name is Joe Weingarten, I am running for the 29th District Indiana State Representative and I approve this message.

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