Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow Jobs

Suppose for a moment that you've got a really great snowplow. And your fondest wish is to clean your driveway, and your neighbors' driveways, and the street in between. Suppose your neighbors all know you have this great plow, and they call to ask if you've done the job yet. Now suppose you can't tell them. You can take the phone calls, but you're not allowed to tell them what you've done. And when they look out their windows…

Well, that's where the analogy breaks down. Because your neighbors can look out their windows and see if the snow's been plowed. But with our Executive and Legislative Ethics Commissions and Inspectors General, it's not so easy to look out the window and see if they've ferreted out corruption. We know how many complaints have been filed, and we know how many investigations the IGs have undertaken. We don't know what happened with those investigations, but we do know that most of them have been concluded without going to the Ethics Commission for final resolution. In fact, nearly all investigations have been concluded by the IGs without oversight from the Commissions. So what's going on? Is the ethics process working?

A bunch of great stories on this problem have come out recently. ABC 7 Chicago did a story you can read and watch here. The Tribune has a story, as does the Daily Herald.

The 2003 Ethics Act made great strides in creating the mechanisms necessary to clean up Illinois government. What it did not do is let anyone else know what's going on or, even, if anything is going on. A little disclosure, a little sunshine in ethics, would go a long way, to clean up government, to educate public employees about what's allowed and what's not, and to assure the public that their interests come first.

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