On June 24, 2014, the Orange County Grand Jury released a report entitled “Ethics and Campaign Reporting: Why and How to Implement Stronger Oversight, Transparency, and Enforcement.”
At the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, the Board voted to approve the proposed response to the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations.
Following the FY 12-13 Grand Jury report titled, “A Call for Ethical Standards: Corruption in Orange County” the Board of Supervisors created a sub-committee, which includes Chairman Shawn Nelson and Supervisor Todd Spitzer, to address the issues raised in the report. The sub-committee developed the proposal to authorize the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to prosecute violations of the County’s campaign finance ordinances (SB 1226), which I support. Given the sub-committee’s work on the subject, the CEO worked through the sub-committee on developing the responses and presents it for the Board’s consideration.
I supported the Staff Report’s recommendation not to initiate an Ethics Commission as proposed by the Grand Jury. I believe there are already existing agencies, mechanisms, and third parties in place that are responsible for unbiased ethics oversight. These include fraud hotlines, the District Attorney’s Political Corruption Unit that was created this year, and currently the FPPC which enforces conflict-of-interest codes and the Levine Act requirement for all elected officials. Not only are these transparency tools in place, they are not staffed with political appointments that have unfettered subpoena authority.
Existing enforcement agencies have subpoena authority granted through state law as law enforcement agencies in contrast to a “politically appointed ethics commission” as proposed. Fundamental to our government is protecting innocence until guilt is proven. Citizen appointed commissions, as proposed, may initiate investigations sometimes merely initiated based on an anonymous complaint and by virtue of an individual being investigated are “guilty first.”
Much more study of this issue to ensure fairness, objectivity, and confidentiality is necessary before we hastily add another level of ethics, oversight, and enforcement which can unjustly damage an individual’s credibility.
To view the report and responses please click here.