STILL ON PATROL: The recent decision by the Kaua`i Board of Ethics (BOE) to enforce the conflict-of-interest prohibitions as expressed in the county charter’s section 20.02(D) was an important first step in reforming what has evolved into a traditionally ethically-challenged political tool of administrations and councils.
And apparently members of the public aren’t going to rest on their laurels if Horace Stoessel’s communication asking the BOE to “schedule three reviews that I believe will serve the public interest as well as the board’s interest, with a brief rationale for each” is any indication.
Although Stoessel’s requests are matters that the BOE needs to examine until they come under a less political and more independent template and appointment system - similar to that of the State Ethics commission- any reforms may be merely akin to shifting deck chairs on the Titanic until the charter review commission decides (or a group of citizens petitions) to deal with the really problematic charter sections like the one governing the BOE’s structure.
That said, here’s Horace’s request:
TO: Chairperson Sally Motta and members of the Board of Ethics
FROM: Horace Stoessel
SUBJECT: Request for Reviews
DATE: March 30, 2010
The purpose of this communication is to ask the Board of Ethics to schedule three reviews that I believe will serve the public interest as well as the board’s interest, with a brief rationale for each.
1. A review of the board’s Guide to Ethical Issues (2004), with a view to making appropriate revisions. Aside from routine corrections such as recognizing the creation of the Office of Boards and Commissions Administrator, potentially confusing references to the Code of Ethics need correcting. In the last paragraph of page one, for example, the Code is referred to as “these ordinances,” while the examples listed on pages 4-8 routinely cite the County Code ahead of the Charter—a practice that should be reversed.
2. A review of Chapter 3 Article 1 of the County Code in light of Charter Section 20.04D, with a view to recommending changes per 20.05D(5). In 1971 the Council enacted Section 25, entitled “ETHICS,” consisting of slightly more than two double-spaced pages. In 1976 the section was replaced with approximately six single-spaced pages entitled “CODE OF ETHICS.” It is reasonable to assume that the new title and expanded contents made it easy for people to assume that Chapter 3 Article 1, rather than Charter Article XX, contains the code of ethics. The title of 3.1 should be changed to something like “Supplements to the Code of Ethics,” and the contents should be reviewed in light of the requirement that ordinances should be necessary supplements to the code. For example, is mere repetition of sections from Article XX justified by 20.04D?
3. A review of the relationship between the Board of Ethics and the administration in light of the board’s authority and responsibility per Article XX, the job description of the Boards and Commissions Administrator (Charter Section 7.06 adopted in 2006), and the County Attorney’s role (Charter Section 8.04). The board is not a part of the administration, but the fact that the Boards and Commissions Administrator and the County Attorney are appointed by the Mayor and serve the board can lead to the perception that the board is just another part of the administration. One key issue is whether the board has the right to seek outside counsel when it deems such counsel is needed.
I request that this communication be placed on the board’s April 9 agenda.