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Ladenburg: Council ethics plan overlooks own staff

Post by David Wickert on Dec. 10, 2007 at 4:23 pm with No Comments »
December 10, 2007 4:23 pm

County Executive John Ladenburg this afternoon informed the County Council he thinks there’s a glaring loophole in its proposed ethics ordinance: the council has exempted its own staff from financial disclosure requirements. He’ll propose an amendment addressing that issue when the council takes up the ordinance on Tuesday.

Read Ladenburg’s e-mail below.

Council Member,

The effort to improve our Code of Ethics has had my support from the

beginning. However, I believe the ordinance currently being considered

is inadequate.

The amendments you have provided omit a group of employees who wield

perhaps the greatest influence on contracts, legislation and lobbying

efforts of anyone in Pierce County government. That group would be your

own staff.

Department directors develop and present budget recommendations for

council approval in an open, public process. However, your staff works

closely with you behind the scenes to develop the final document. Staff

members have your collective ear. Could they not be swayed by lobbyists

and gift givers to use their positions as your advisers to influence the

budget? Obviously what they say carries a great deal of weight, perhaps

even greater than the departments themselves. That was readily apparent

this year when suggestions made by department directors were virtually


It is entirely appropriate the county executive’s chief of staff be

included in the ethics amendments. For the same reasons, so should the

council’s. And if county department heads are subject to your

amendments, it only makes sense that your budget director, attorney,

research analysts, personal assistants and performance audit staff who

work with you on a daily basis to spend taxpayer dollars also be held to

the same standards.

Without the inclusion of your staff, the ordinance to amend the Code of

Ethics can only be described as weak. I am more than happy to work with

you to close this glaring loophole and create a definitive ordinance

that covers all of the appropriate personnel. An amendment addressing

this issue will be in front of you tomorrow.


John W. Ladenburg


Pierce County
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