Sunday, December 06, 2009

Bernalillo County Ethics Ordinance isn't.

County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins is trying to write and pass legislation that would compel county employees to discharge their duties ethically.

The proposed legislation, link, is under revision, and community meetings have been held for public input.

At one of the first meetings, I took the opportunity to point out that the proposed ordinance did not address the most fundamental ethic of all; truth telling.

Nowhere in the ordinance does it read; in response to any legitimate question about the public interests, or about their public service, county employees will answer candidly, forthrightly and honestly.

Unless it rests on the foundational ethic, ethics reform is meaningless.

How can the ordinance be enforced if you can ask a politician or
public servant a legitimate question and they can respond by saying "no comment", or by simply not responding at all?

cc Maggie Hart Stebbins upon posting.

photo Bernalillo County website.


Anonymous said...

I'm almost with you 110% of the time Ched, but the legal definition of "truth" is far more complicated to the ethical definition of truth.
Even if people were legally held to telling "truth to the best of their ability", it is still a useless concept, as no one really knows what the full "ability" of each person is, at that time.
Now a law requiring people not to "lie, misinterpret or mislead the public" is a lot more legally feasible.
"Telling a lie" is far easier to prosecute and hold accountable than "tell the truth".
Just a practical thought if anyone pursues this as a requirement for public service.

ched macquigg said...

Two points; the first is that not lying, not misinterpreting, and/or not misleading, doesn't prohibit stonewalling; refusing to answer at all.

Second, the "truth" doesn't need to be defined, only the process by which the "truth" is determined.

A law could read; if you don't feel like you have been told the truth, you file a complaint. Whomever is charged with hearing your complaint, is simultaneously charged with determining if the truth has been told.

Recognize also that a candid, forthright and honest answer, telling the truth, could include; I am not going to answer the question for such and such a reason.

ched macquigg said...

I would add, nobody seems to have any trouble defining the meaning of "telling the truth" when you are standing before a judge and asked to;
tell the truth,the whole truth and
nothing but the truth.

There is no reason I can think of that, politicians and public servants, with respect to the public interests and their public service, could not be required to offer the same oath.

Anonymous said...

IT as you always say, Ched: The law is the lowest standard that people should adhere themselves to.
So many people convince themselves that the "truth" is this and this...even though everyone else knows how wrong they are.
Some of these people will even believe what they have convinced themselves to be "the truth" so much that they will pass lie detector tests.
Then there's 2 or more opposing truths that are both true. Is 1 or more a lie? Sometimes not.
"Truth" is vague in definition to those who don't respect it.
Can you make people "Respect"truth by making an oath or a law? Will racist change their attitudes, behavior, perceptions because of anti-racist laws?
I don't believe we should just roll over and take it lying down. Unfortunately manipulating truth is a very popular, and ancient, political tool.
I think taking away the ability to personally gain for people-in-power like lying, or breaking laws, or becoming corrupt is your best answer.
If people cannot savor illicit personal gains from government or public service (as you suggested, auditing and stricter laws and accountability measures), then they will no longer lie, or break laws. Probably, they will not enter public service unless they are really there to serve, if there is no chance of personal gain.
"Making" people tell the truth is like locks on houses: they only deter the honest man, who didn't come there to committ crime. However, the crook will find a way in no matter what.