A "placeholder" is someone who agrees to run on a ticket
with a mayoral candidate or be appointed by him, but has no interest or intention in
actually doing the work required by the position. Such a candidate
does not attend many meetings of the body to which she was elected
(often she is not even in town much of the year) and, when she does
attend, is usually not prepared. When her support is needed, she
will sometimes read a short speech prepared for her by someone else.
One placeholder here or there is not too big a problem,
but multiple placeholders on the same body can (1) lead to quorum
problems, and (2) create the appearance that elected officials are
simply rubber stamps for the mayor, and that real candidates, with
their own opinions, need not apply, because one or both of the
parties don't want them. This is demoralizing. Not only do citizens
with opinions feel their service is not wanted by government. But
when such citizens go to a public meeting, they find that, if they
disagree with the ruling party's policy, there is no one from the
ruling party who is listening and will openly discuss the issue. Instead, board members support moving to a vote as soon as possible, always,
always, always voting the same as each other.
Is this a government ethics issue? I think it is. It involves a
confusion of person and office. An official misuses his office if he
continuously puts his personal obligations ahead of his public
obligation to fulfill the duties of the office. It is only one's office to the extent one actively and responsibly does the work. If one does not or cannot, then one has to relinquish the office.