Outrage: Commissioners To Debate Gutting Ethics Reform
The email below was sent to super-activist Charlotte Greenbarg, the President of the Broward Coalition, who thoughtfully forwarded it to me. http://www.browardcoalition.org/
Stand with Sue for Ethics Reform
** Urgent Action Needed **
It seems County Attorney Jeff Newton, working again in stealth coordination with at least one of my colleagues, is conspiring for a second attempt to torpedo ethics reform. Click here to read respected political journalist Buddy Nevins' new column exposing this latest scheme to derail ethics reform.
In the Agenda and backup for next Tuesday's Commission meeting (Item 8 -- and the related amendments -- on the 2 PM Agenda), Mr. Newton is actually proposing that we adopt the proposed Ethics Code (Agenda Item #7) ... and then vote minutes later to totally gut it. This is outrageous!
The County Attorney's so-called "glitch" ordinance proposal (Item 8) is a joke. It is nothing but a thinly veiled political attempt to kill ethics reform. It provides a lengthy "cooling off" period of many months before the ethics reforms would even take effect.
Why is this lengthy delay needed? Do any of my colleagues really need 120 days or more time to become ethical and comply with the new Ethics Code before it takes effect? I hope not.
In reality, the proposed delay is a stalling tactic to allow some of my colleagues to orchestrate lawsuits which would seek to kill ethics reform before the effective date. It would also eliminate any criminal penalties for violating the Ethics Code,
Even worse are the proposed amendments, which are purportedly instigated and authored solely by the County Attorney. These amendments would:
- Totally kill the proposed ban on County Commissioners simultaneously collecting a public salary while also earning big bucks leveraging public office by serving as a paid lobbyist.
- Totally exempt Commission spouses/domestic partners from the gift ban.
- Exempt Commissioners, spouses/domestic partners, and Commission personal staff from most of the new ethics bans.
- Exempt all current commissioners from complying with strictest parts of the proposed new Ethics Code.
With your help in June, we were able to scuttle the plot to kill ethics reform with a ridiculous "declaratory judgment" lawsuit. In response, the County Attorney hired -- at taxpayer expense -- attorney E. Bruce Johnson to weigh in with a "legal opinion" denouncing the proposed Ethics Code. Mr. Johnson's lengthy opinion letter seemingly parroted the County Attorney's absurd stance that any real ethics reform was unconstitutional.
What the County Attorney and Mr. Johnson failed to disclose was that Mr. Johnson has a significant financial conflict of interest that should have prevented him from rendering any opinion. You see, Mr. Johnson's own law firm earns money from having one of their attorneys (State Senator Chris Smith) engage in the same shady "lobbying down" conduct that we are seeking to ban. Thus, it was no surprise that Johnson put forward an opinion that the questionable conduct -- the same conduct which puts money into his own pocket -- is fine with him.
On my own, I inquired last month of respected former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth on this issue. He told me he reviewed the proposed Ethics Code and saw no problems with it. In fact, Attorney General Butterworth told me there was no reason he saw for bringing any declaratory judgment action against it nor for legitimately questioning the constitutionality of the ethics proposals.
Despite this, the County Attorney (and presumably one or two of my colleagues) will not stop until ethics reform is killed. With the sad and disappointing headlines of the past year -- the arrests and convictions -- I couldn't think any better argument would be needed to urge adoption of a tough code of ethics.
HERE IS WHERE I NEED YOUR HELP. NOW.
Please call or email the Broward County Commissioner who represents your district. Demand that s/he vote on Tuesday to adopt the proposed Ethics Code (Public Hearing Agenda Item 7) and reject the so-called "glitch" ordinance (Public Hearing Agenda Item 8) and ALL of the County Attorney's proposed amendments to Item 8.
If you stand with me in support of real ethics reform, please contact your own Commissioner and let him/her (or all of them) know your views on this important issue. Here is the contact information:
District 1 - Ilene Lieberman - 954.357.7001 - firstname.lastname@example.org
District 2 - Kristin Jacobs - 954.357.7002 - email@example.com
District 3 - Stacy Ritter - 954.357.7003 - firstname.lastname@example.org
District 4 - County Mayor Ken Keechl - 954.357.7004 - email@example.com
District 5 - Lois Wexler - 954.357.7005 - firstname.lastname@example.org
District 6 - Sue Gunzburger - I already stand with you 100% for real ethics reform.
District 7 - John E. Rodstrom, Jr. - 954.357.7007 - email@example.com
District 8 - Vacant
District 9 - Albert C. Jones - 954.357.7009 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Be very clear in your comments to them. Let them know you will not be fooled by any slick political spin or intentionally complicated legal gibberish offered as excuses. The bottom line: Any Commissioner who votes in support of the "glitch" ordinance (Item 8) or ANY of the proposed amendments to Item 8 is an ENEMY OF ETHICS REFORM.
There can be no compromise on ethics. No matter how upset some of my colleagues may be with me for continuing to advance this most honorable cause.
Please get involved right now. I need your help. This cause is too important for anyone to stay silent. Will you stand with me for ethics reform?Sincerely,
This email was the subject of Bob Norman's Daily Pulp blog column Thursday.
By Bob Norman Thursday, August 5 2010 @ 9:04AM
In the latest outrageous bit of behavior from our delinquent Broward County Commission, there is a new plan afoot to gut the new ethics reform. The insidious plan (as it appears on the agenda): The commission will pass the ethics proposals put forth by the Broward County Ethics Commission as they are, as required by law, and then immediately vote on amendments that would exclude themselves and family members from having to follow some of them. Among them is the key provision to bar them and their relatives from lobbying in Broward County.
Read the rest of the post here:
The subject of the Broward County Commission possibly gutting the Broward County Ethics Commission's work was also the subject of a number of posts by Brittany Wallman at the Broward Politics blog of the Sun-Sentinel.
These are in chronological order.
Ban on doing business with the county could hit Broward commissioners
By Brittany Wallman August 5, 2010 08:00 AM
Proposed county ethics "glitch'' law lets commissioners go after their complainants
By Brittany Wallman August 5, 2010 11:45 AM
Ethics reform dismantling draws quick foes in Broward
By Brittany Wallman August 5, 2010 05:30 PM