Sunday, July 27, 2014

Should politicians and public servants be held accountable to higher standards of conduct than the law?

First, one has to define "higher standards".

Under "feckless endeavors" find;

any effort to finally define "higher standards" and the concept of "ethical".  
In my experience, the energy that people put into arguing about what "ethical means" correlates directly with their desire to enjoy exception from any higher standards of conduct at all.

It's a debate that will never end.  There will never be unanimous agreement on the whole meaning of higher standards and ethical behavior.

Nothing speaks truth
like videotape 
Though we can't agree on everything ever, that doesn't mean we can agree on something immediately.  We can agree on one thing that separates and differentiates higher standards and the low, between "ethical" and "legal" and that is truth telling.

Any higher standard of conduct than the law rests on the premise that the truth will be the basis upon which all else rests; the whole truth, nothing but the ethically redacted truth.

The difference between higher standards and the law cannot be illustrated more clearly than contrast between legal and ethical redaction of public records.

The "legal" end of the redaction continuum has politicians and public servants using the people's power and resources to redact as much of their own public record as they can get away with.  They pay lawyers unconscionable amounts of money to use loopholes and legal weaselry to hide inconvenient public records of their public corruption and or incompetence.

Consider the resources that Marty Esquivel and the leadership of the APS are spending to hide the findings of a number of investigations into felony criminal misconduct involving APS senior administrators and a number of their Chiefs of Police.  It's all quite "legal".

"The law" insofar as it applies to powerful pols and public servants, is what you have left after half the lawyers in the world have spent centuries taking thou shalt nots and bending them into thou shalt not, ...excepts.

Ethically redaction is based on an an ethical interpretation of the law.  Nothing is redacted except for good and ethical reasons.

However problematic defining "ethical redaction" may be, the one thing we know for certain is that, redaction of the record is not the prerogative of the person whose record it is.  Except that it is.  Politicians and public servants are allowed to redact their own record and then defend that redaction with government power and resources; the people's power and resources.

If you wanted to illustrate the concept of creating an appearance of a conflict of interests, if you were in search of an exemplar, a case in point; you would point to allowing pols and public servants to redact the record of their own public service.

What are we thinking?!

Politicians and public servants should not be even holding their own public record much less redacting it.  That's how government hard drives full of inconvenient truth, crash and then get ground into dust particles for recycling.

If politicians and public servants were actually and honestly accountable to any higher standards of conduct and competence than the law;
1.  They could point to them.  They could point to the place where they have written down clear and unequivocal standards high enough to protect the public interests. And then,
2.  they could point to the due process they provide for complaints over their failure to meet those standards.
The "leadership" of the APS can do neither.  I doubt that any government agency can.

That's why government is so bad at what it does; either or both of
1. inadequate standards of conduct and competence within public service, and or

2.  inadequate enforcement of adequate standards.
Oversight over the spending of public power and resources rests on truth telling; candid, forthright and honest.

The dearth of truth telling about standards and accountability in APS and in government in general, points to the distinct probability there are significant issues with both.

photo Mark Bralley

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