Political Buzz

Talking WA politics.

NOTICE: Political Buzz has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Political Buzz.
Visit the new section.

Ethics board targeted for closure

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Feb. 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm with 6 Comments »
February 26, 2010 1:13 pm

Rep. Jeannie Darneille wants to save the state money by shutting down the agency charged with acting as an ethics watchdog for the executive branch.

The House Ways and Means Committee could decide today whether to eliminate the Executive Ethics Board.

The board’s $492,000 budget comes from legal-services funds paid by state agencies. Darneille, whose General Government Appropriations Committee has been scouring government for savings, has offered an amendment cutting the money from the budget.

Darneille explains: “What concerned me about them was the low level of productivity of the board. They don’t meet but I think six times a year. They have four staff. They haven’t had any major decisions that have come out of the board.”

Most of the fines it gives out are for state employees alleged to have misused public resources, usually by doing personal business at work or on government computers.

It’s not an area that needs policing, Darneille said. Supervisors can discipline employees for doing personal activity on the state’s dime, she said.

Darneille: “I just don’t think we need to spend a million dollars to find out somebody has gone on Facebook on their computers.”

The five-member board meets every other month, a schedule that it said in a report is due to budget constraints. The board opened 67 new cases last year, closed 30 and fined 11 state workers.

A couple of them were accused of giving out confidential information. Another, a former Department of Ecology worker, was fined $250 for allegedly going to work for a contractor on a project  she had worked on with the state.

Eliminating the board will end enforcement of the ethics act passed by the Legislature in 1994, said Janelle Guthrie, spokeswoman for Attorney General Rob McKenna, whose agency provides staff to the board.

“We think that’s counter to the goals of transparency and accountability in government,” Guthrie says.

“If that enforcement watchdog was not available, might we see more cases than just the ones they dealt with in 2009?”

UPDATED with comments from attorney general’s office.

Leave a comment Comments → 6
  1. Let’s take a look back to year 2009 what the Executive Ethics Board did as published within the Year 2009 Annual Report; for example, see, Washington State, Executive Ethics Board (EEB), Annual Report for 2009, Dec 2009, (Adobe PDF document p. 11) at 10, available at
    http://www.ethics.wa.gov/ABOUT_US/Annual_Reports/annual%20report%202009.pdf#page=11

    The use of public resources for personal gain was again the leading complaint driver for EEB staff. The most common misuses were:
    • visiting inappropriate internet sites;
    •storing personal documents (diaries, home mortgage documents, auto details, pictures, bank account information);
    •transacting personal business while at work.

    Let’s hope before this EEB agency is closed and gone; naturally, they make public all the records of ‘Advisory Opinions (AO)’ not concluded but fact gathering reported to public for our own opinion; for example, on AO release of interest might be this:

    “00-08, Review in Progress, Use of State Resources/Political Campaigns/Officer or Employee Title See, Id. Adobe p.8, at 7.

    There might exist more to this story than ‘Darneille: “I just don’t think we need to spend a million dollars to find out somebody has gone on Facebook on their computers.”‘ presents.

    TNT why not call Wash. EEB agency (tel 360-664-0871) and get their side of this story for us ‘Taxpayers’ new and ask if any legislative people are under review by EEB or any open reviews remain unpublished and absent AOs?

  2. LOL won’t you know there’d be a (D) after that name.

  3. johnearl says:

    Eliminating the ethics board will be heralded as a brilliant cost savings measure, right up to the day that it is not.

  4. CatLady2010 says:

    That would be a shame. Government would return to the days before the ethics board. When conflicts of interests were covered up. There’s a reason it was established. Managers cannot police themselves. So … where is the legislative ethics board in all of this?

  5. May as well shut it down, we know they are not doing anything. They worry about the small stuff, but oh well when it comes to the big issues.

  6. Everybody, keep-on-reading this story at Budget panel: Give ethics board the ax (26 Feb 2010); it follows, there is more articles for comments about EEB and what benefit it might be to whom or not.

    See, Cut off funding for ethics board? House thinks it’s right thing to do (27 Feb 2010) for the latest news about how EEB will save state millions of dollars.

*
We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0