Boise’s new ethics panel recently told City Treasurer Kent Rock it was OK to ask for money from the banks and brokers he deals with as long as he does it on behalf of a professional group and not the City.
Duh! He heads the group BECAUSE he is Boise’s treasurer.
At issue is Rock’s desire to persuade The Association of Public Treasurers of the U.S. and Canada to hold its 2007 conference in Boise.
As president of the group he said he will be expected to solicit $25,000 in “sponsorship funds” for the group and he said the natural sources of “donations” would be the banks and brokerage houses he deals with on a daily basis. Honest on Rock’s part, but not the proper arms to twist.
Rock did the right thing when he asked the new Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion about soliciting gratuities from the financial institutions doing business with Boise City. The ethics panel fell on its collective butt when it naively thought he could divorce himself from his official position for the purpose of money grubbing for the bean counters party.
The fledgling ethics commission needs to consider the following and come up with better advice to Mr. Rock if it expects any public confidence in future opinions:
–Government should not solicit funds from ANYONE, especially financial institutions which stand to gain from decisions of the government.
–Why does Boise belong to a group dependent upon payoffs from private business? It can only breed distrust by the public and create conflicts of interest.
–The city no longer belongs to the U.S. Conference of Mayors even though Boise’s mayor was once head of the group. It was simply too many opportunities for ethical conflicts.
–As an example, it would be improper for a judge to ask lawyers who appear in his court to donate to a “judge conference” even if he made it clear he was not asking as a judge, but as a member of the association.
–”Sponsorships” are nothing more than payola on the part of banks and brokerages who want access to the folks who have authority to spend the citizen’s hard earned tax money.
This is a no brainer and the ethics folks missed the point. How about revisiting it and coming up with a decisive opinion: “It would be unethical and a conflict of interest for a city official to solicit money from those he is in a position to enrich.”
The Guardian sought an outside opinion on this and got the following from Prof. David Shultz who is a lawyer with a PhD who teaches Ethics in Government and Election Law at Hamlin University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“The Ethics Commission really blew it and failed to understand what a conflict of interest is. A conflict of interest occurs when a person can use his public office either to personally enrich himself, his friends, or others with whom he works.
Here, the treasurer had the capacity to do all three and should have been prevented from personally soliciting others. There is no way he can separate himself from his professional role as treasurer.”
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