Ethics Reform Package Sails Through Commissioners Court
by: Pat Hernandez, June 23, 2009 5:06:02 pm
The final series of ethics reforms came after previous proposals were delayed. This time, Commissioners didn't have any questions about the measure they approved. In addition to the adoption of a county statement of ethics, the proposal includes the voluntary registration of lobbyists and an online posting of personal and financial disclosure forms by elected officials. County Judge Emmett:
"Harris County government functions well, it's an ethical operation. We have over 16-thousand employees. This just sets out a good statement of principles as to what is expected of county employees, elected and otherwise, and I was glad to see a unanimous court move forward with this."
Ethics was the centerpiece of Emmett's campaign last year, after a series of controversies involving officials like Sheriff Tommy Thomas and District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. Some doubted passage would actually occur, especially after Governor Rick Perry's veto of a bill pushed by Commissioner Sylvia Garcia that called for a waiting period for former Harris County employees who could lobby for the county.
"I think what's important is that there be a statement of what our ethical...ethics principles are, that there is some guidance for employees, that they do get training, that we do have some rules. I think it's important not just for our current employees and officials today, but for the future."
The next step is implementation of the ethics reforms. Judge Emmett realizes not everyone is happy.
"You won't quiet all the critics but the thing is, when you have a county government of over 16-thousand people, and you have a few instances that suddenly get a lot of attention, it's easy to then say with some kind of blanket statement that all's bad at the county. In fact, that's just not the case. We have good dedicated county employees, and this just sets forth the principles that we're saying we believe in. I hope every office publishes them. We want to make sure it gets in the hands of every county employee. Everybody knows what's expected of them going forward, and I just think it's a good positive step."
Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.