Monday, April 13, 2009

"Ethical" means what, exactly?

One cannot read about government or laws without coming
across the word "ethical". "Ethical" reform was a big topic
during the last legislative session.

"Ethical" behavior is expected of public officials; the title of
NM State Statute 10-16-3 reads;

Ethical Principles of Public Service.
Within the Act, it is written;
Legislators, public officers and employees shall conduct
themselves in a manner that justifies the confidence
placed in them by the people, at all times maintaining
the integrity and discharging ethically the high
responsibilities of public service.
So what does "ethical" mean. I have asked everywhere;
nobody knows.

I finally got a response from the Legislative Council Service.
They should know; they are the folks who do the research and
actually write the bills that legislators then pass or defeat.

They wrote;
New Mexico is a plain language state, and in the case of
10-16-3, no definition of "ethical" or "ethically" is given.

As stated in the statutes:

12-2A-2. Common and technical usage. (1997)
Unless a word or phrase is defined in the statute or rule
being construed, its meaning is determined by its context,
the rules of grammar and common usage. A word or
phrase that has acquired a technical or particular meaning
in a particular context has that meaning if it is used in that
Now, imagine that you are trying to enforce this statute upon
a public official. That public official will be defended by a bevy
of lawyers who are paid handsomely to litigate in defense of the
corrupt and the incompetent, against the public interests.
What will those lawyers do with loose language?

To whose advantage does the confusion work; the average
citizen, or the corrupt public official?

Submitted as proof; although this particular statute is at
least as old 1978, and perhaps even older, there has never
been a single prosecution under that law; to the delight of
public servants without ethics, and to the dismay of the
average citizen who is getting screwed on a daily basis.

What ever ethical means overall,
at the very least, perhaps we can all agree that it means;
telling the truth about the spending of our power and
our resources.

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