making local government more ethical
There is nothing more natural and, in most circumstances, ethical than a mother doing her best to help her son when he is in trouble. And yet, in most jurisdictions, there are multiple government ethics laws that prohibit this very conduct when the mother is a government official. This is as good an example as there is of the fact that government ethics is not about ethical conduct in general, but rather about government fiduciaries dealing responsibly with their conflicts of interest.

According to an article in the Eagle Tribune last week, a hearing was held by the Massachusetts ethics commission regarding a complaint against a member of the Groveland, MA board of selectmen (its governing body). She was alleged to have used her position to try to help her son, a Groveland police officer who had been placed on administrative leave.

According to the EC's press release, this otherwise commendable conduct might have violated four different ethics provisions:

When a city or county attorney's office does not represent the ethics commission, should that office play any role in an ethics proceeding? I don't believe it should.

But that is what happened recently in Cobb County, GA, according to an article last week in the Marietta Daily Journal. After an ethics complaint was filed against four of the five county commissioners, the county attorney quickly filed a response "asking the ethics board to dismiss the complaint, which she called unfounded and based on non-legal claims."

Is local government ethics enforcement appropriate for local legislators? This question is currently being asked in Sarasota County, FL and Wyandotte County/Kansas City, KS. A key to whether this is the right question is who is asking the question. In both cases, it is local legislators who have been respondents in ethics enforcement proceedings, and some of their legislative colleagues.

Rarely is a non-politician celebrity the subject of a local government ethics matter. So with David Beckham the subject of a Miami-Dade County ethics commission investigative report last week, and with important issues to boot [pun intended], this is an impossible matter to pass by.

Initiating Contact
The most interesting issues in this matter are whether lobbying is a one-way street, and the underlying issue: whether motive or intent is relevant to lobbying. That is, when there is a meeting between a government official and the officer of a company who may be seeking special benefits from the official's government, does it truly matter who initiated the contact? Is it reasonable that, when the government official initiates the contact, the meeting does not involve lobbying, but when the company officer initiates the contact, the meeting does involve lobbying?

In a blog post ten days ago, I predicted that Florida state senator Joe Abruzzo, the sponsor of SB 1474, would realize that the newly amended bill would not do what he really wanted and make the appropriate changes, so that the amended SB 1474 would be consistent with HB 1315.

And so he did. He has drafted an amendment to the amended bill that makes it somewhat consistent with HB 1315 (the new amendment is attached; see below). The amendment is supposed to be taken up by the senate Community Affairs Committee on Tuesday, April 1.

According to Wikipedia, a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) is "a model in particle physics in which at high energy, the three gauge interactions of the Standard Model which define the electromagnetic, weak, and strong interactions, are merged into one single interaction."

It appears that the case of Michael Quinn Sullivan and his trio of organizations, Empower Texans PAC, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (a 501(c)4) organization), and Empower Texans Foundation (a 501(c)(3) organization) may provide a Grand Unified Theory in the field of government ethics, bringing together the fields of campaign finance, lobbying, transparency, and conflicts of interest.