Inside Story: Lawmakers May Take Tough Cop Off Ethics Beat
From Phil Williams:
Some lawmakers want to do away with the state agency that polices their ethics. They say it's a question of money.
Right now, the Ethics Commission polices elected officials and special-interest lobbyists. The Registry of Election Finance regulates how candidates and special-interest groups raise and spend campaign money.
Some want to kill the Ethics Commission and give its job to the Registry.
So why would some lawmaker want to keep the Registry -- and not the Ethics Commission?
Some lawmakers will privately tell you they think the state Ethics Commission is way too aggressive.
But the Registry of Election Finance, well, they say that's a different story.
Remember our investigation that caught former state Sen. John Ford using money from his campaign to pay for his daughter's wedding.
When a NewsChannel 5 viewer filed a complaint with the Registry, some board members initially didn't want to touch it.
They argued that the Registry shouldn't be watching media reports, then sending Registry staff out to conduct an investigation.
Although the board did eventually take action against Ford, a recent audit suggests there's still a problem with how the Registry does its job -- or doesn't do its job, depending upon your perspective.
The audit notes that the Registry has the authority to investigate any misconduct "upon its own motion," but auditors found that it lacks any formal procedures for doing so.
It adds, "The board's chair states that he is passionate about not accepting complaints from person with no firsthand knowledge of the alleged violation" -- such as a complaint based on a media report.
So why would lawmakers want to put such a group in charge of their ethics?