At the end of this legislative session in California Governor Brown vetoed a few bills that, the legislature passed in Sacramento, which dealt with ethics. His reason was that he did not want to make the ethical practices the elected in Sacramento must follow to be made any more complex. Huh? Given that under his watch three separate Senators have been indicted on various federal and state charges ranging from voter fraud to gun running, how complicated are the current ethics rules?
This gave me pause as to how complicated it must be already for these guys given their current legal troubles, so I went looking for the complex ethics one must follow if ever elected in our great state. Listed below are some of the ethical behaviors expected of our great leaders serving the citizenry in Sacramento. This seems very doable; after all don’t we assume these people understand right from wrong? Yes, but if they need it spelled out, then so be it.
Each Senator shall conduct himself/herself so as to justify the high trust reposed in him/her by the people to promote confidence in the integrity of the Senate.
- A Senator or officer or employee of the Senate shall not engage in unethical conduct or tolerate such conduct by others.
- Each Senator and each officer or employee of the Senate has a responsibility to report any and apparent and substantial violation of the Standards.
- Each Senator or officer or employee of the Senate has the right to consult with the Senate Committee on Legislative Ethics, or, at the option of the individual, the Senate Ombudsperson (see below) regarding the propriety of any conduct that may violate the Standards.
- A Senator or officer or employee of the Senate shall not retaliate against a person who the reports possible violation of these Standards or against a person who the Senator, officer, or employee believes made such a report.
- A Senator or an officer or employee of the Senate shall not discuss legislative business of any kind while attending or hosting an event at which campaign funds or contributions are solicited, provided, or discussed.
Here is the ironic part of the story, so we have these 3 people indicted on various felony charges from both state and federal prosecutors and the California Senate leadership does nothing, and I mean nothing. Talk about standing by their men, Darrell Steinberg had nothing on Hilary Clinton.
Senator Rod Wright was indicted in September of 2010 and was eventually convicted and sentenced this year. Leland Yee was indicted in March of this year and is still facing multiple federal charges including bribery and gun running. Senator Ron Calderon was indicted in February of 2014 and is still facing 24 counts also including bribery .None of these men lost their jobs. Period. They did not resign nor were they asked to resign; they actually took paid leave of absences on the taxpayer’s dime.
And what did the Senate do while these “boys” were off figuring out their legal strategy for staying out of prison rather than working on California’s pressing issues? Finally in July of this year they had a touchy feely class on ethics. I mean, they devoted a whole day to this work….see below explanation of said class.
On April 23, 2014, the State Senate devoted an entire day to a review and reflection of ethical issues and the Senate Standards of Conduct. The review of “Ethics in Principle and Practice” entailed separate group sessions for Senators only, and for Senate Office Chiefs of Staff, Office Directors and Committee Chief Consultants. Following those group sessions, the material was reviewed in individual office staff meetings.
The group sessions included a presentation on “Strengthening a Culture of Ethics” by Scott Raecker, CEO of the Josephson Institute of Ethics and executive director of Character Counts at Drake University. The nonprofit Josephson Institute in Los Angeles has worked with corporations, governmental agencies and professionals on strengthening standards of conduct in individual and institutional decision-making.
A separate segment involved a panel of local legal experts who presented a variety of hypothetical scenarios to facilitate discussion and dialogue on ethical and legal issues.
A day of reflection cost us greatly because every district these men represented went without representation the whole time they were committing illegal acts and afterwards because Darrell Steinberg and or Governor Brown would not do the right thing, the ethical thing which was to fire their butts. You can find the little hypothetical situations they covered in this Ethics for Idiots class, oddly enough gun running issues or voter fraud were not covered.
So when the Governor says the ethics the folks have to follow in Sacramento are too complex, ask yourself if your child knows not to steal or to lie. Then ask yourself why a sitting Governor with the record numbers of indictments under his leadership would not want to shore up the ethical behavior of his team, hmmm?