Ethics is Us
New ethics rules proposed for Broward County officials are drawing complaints that they are too burdensome. These new rules are the result of a series of arrests of local officials who, after years of doing bad things, had the bad luck to get caught by authorities who, after years of ignoring the problem, suddenly discovered ethics existed.
This misfortune is not limited to Broward. Palm Beach County came first, with a series of prosecutions a few years before. And just Sunday we read that the Feds are looking into the privatization of prisons, involving contracts for a lot of money that may lead to highly placed state officials. This at a time when the Scott administration seems bent on privatizing other prisons, and everything else it can think of. If the Feds find wrongdoing, and they always do, it could ruin the state economy by depriving other officials from their God-given right to steal.
In fairness, there is nothing to suggest wrongdoing in the prison situation, except a mysterious meeting in Boca Raton and a discovered memo in which it states that everything about this meeting is “confidential.” Now, when state business involving big dollars is meant to be confidential, that is often a sign that the Feds may have to do some work.
What about the human cost of ethics rules? We decided to interview an official who does not like ethics rules.
Gold Coast: Commissioner, thanks for having us. What’s wrong with ethics
Commissioner: There’s nothing wrong with ethics, as long as it don’t affect my life. These rules say I gotta tell who I work for and what I make. I don’t think it’s right.
I mean I can’t lobby any other governments, or anybody in my family, or I can’t vote for a garbage company in which I own stock, though nobody knows it, and my brother-in-law can’t be a lawyer and count on my vote to rezone a golf course, and I can’t take a free box at a sports event, or a car, or a condo on Miami Beach. …. I mean you can’t do nothing. How can you expect me to make a living? What do they want me to do as a public servant? Really be a servant?
Gold Coast: Good point. I can see why you couldn’t take a condo on the Fort Lauderdale beach. That would suggest a conflict. But Miami Beach has nothing to do with Broward.
Commissioner: Right. These new rules is two onersome. You can’t even accept a bottle of water.
Gold Coast: I saw that in the paper. Maybe you could accept a plastic container. Most people think of bottles as glass. And if there’s no rule against plastic containers, you could always get them to put gin or vodka in it and pretend it's water.
Commissioner: You gotta understand politics. What’s politics for if it’s not to help your friends. And make a few bucks on the side. That’s why I got into it. With this new stuff nobody’s gonna run. And people in office will quit.
Gold Coast: Don’t we wish. Well, thanks for your time. And your service.
Commissioner: Wait a minute. Don’t I get paid for this?
Gold Coast: We never do that. It wouldn’t be ethical. But we can offer you a container of water. Just don’t drink it when driving.