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Keep Houston Press Free
4

County Government's Ethical Problems Solved

There are some naysayers out there who might claim that Harris County government has a problem with ethics.

These carpers will point to a DA and Sheriff who think county e-mail systems are a good place for racist jokes; a longtime revolving-door tradition that sees county employees move on to jobs that involve getting county contracts; elected officials who pay only passing attention to campaign-finance laws.

There's no pleasing some people.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett did what every elected official does when faced with such controversy -- he appointed a task force to study the problem.

And now their report is out.

It's a pretty common-sense document, which probably says something about the need for common sense to be adopted in the county.

There's a call for a nine-person "ethics board" of citizens to review cases, but that has as much chance of passing Commissioners Court as a plan to take away commissioners' right to fund their own pet projects.

The report, though, is interesting -- for its naivete, at least:

The new code would seek to motivate personnel. The code would emphasize the principles of ethics and the end-results that ethical behavior seeks to achieve. The code would be characterized by positive language and examples of the emphasis on violations and sanctions that characterize the current code.

Positive language and motivating by emphasizing the end results? That ought to do it.

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There's also:

The new code would seek to raise the bar for ethical behavior. Instead of focusing on the 'trip-wires' that would get someone in trouble, the new approach would deal with higher-level expectations (for example, ensuring that an individual is careful about the perception of impropriety as well as the reality).

Gee, if they'd only had this proposed code around when Judge Bob Eckels was ruling the roost. Would've nipped a lot of problems in the bud.

-- Richard Connelly

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