Tag Archives: ethics

Amarillo ISD complaint offers opportunity for ethics lesson

A constituent of Amarillo’s public school system, has peeled away the shroud from a story that has been brewing in the community for several weeks.

Marc Henson has filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency against a member of the Amarillo school district board who, according to Henson, interfered with a high school coach’s ability to do her job. The board trustee, Renee McCown, badgered former Amarillo High School volleyball coach Kori Clements, griping about the playing time being given to the trustee’s daughters.

Clements quit after a single season coaching in one of Texas’s most storied high school athletic programs.

There’s a lesson to be learned, no matter how this story plays out.

It is that elected officials — be they school board members, city council members, county commissioners, college or university regents — have no business meddling in the day-to-day work of the staff members who serve the public.

I am going to presume that Renee McCown received that advice as she was preparing to become an Amarillo public school trustee. If she never received those words of wisdom from senior school administrators or fellow trustees, shame on them for neglecting to inform her.

If she got that advice and then ignored it, then shame on her.

I am acutely aware that all of this is an allegation. However, it rings more credible to me — and to others who are much closer to the matter than I am — every time I consider it.

McCown hasn’t denied anything publicly. Clements’ resignation letter set the table for a heated community discussion. Marc Henson’s complaint to the TEA has blown the lid off the alleged culprit in this bizarre story.

As for the lesson to be learned, it is a simple one. Read my lips: Elected officials set governing policy and then let the paid staff implement that policy. Period. End of story.

Any involvement in the implementation of policy beyond that simple mandate smacks of unethical conduct and must be dealt with sharply.

Welcome to a rocky start, Congress

That didn’t take long.

Congressional Republicans decided to gut an ethics watchdog group, prompting the president-elect to send out a tweet that said they should focus on other matters first; then the House GOP caucus decided to scrap the watchdog-gutting, apparently cowed by Donald Trump’s Twitter tirade.

I’m glad the House GOP thought better of the cockamamie idea to place ethics investigations solely within the House Ethics Committee, which is run by Republicans.

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/312496-house-gop-scraps-plan-to-gut-ethics-watchdog-after-emergency-meeting

What’s next? The bipartisan independent group will continue to refer complaints to Congress if they deem them legitimate. They’ll be able to accept anonymous complaints.

Does this mean Donald Trump has found some ethical “religion”? Probably not. He’s got a slew of problems himself to resolve.

It does mean, though, that he seems to have put the fear of social media into the minds of his fellow Republicans.

Still, it’s a clumsy start to the next congressional session.

'Schock and awe' probe could expose others

Aaron Schock is about to leave his congressional office.

The Illinois Republican quit his House seat amid swirling controversy over how he spent lots of public money on extravagant outings around the world. The young man has expensive taste and now it might be that he accepted gifts illegally … allegedly.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/aaron-schock-fbi-probe-spending-116257.html?hp=r1_3

A grand jury is looking into it. Congress should examine it, too.

Indeed, the Aaron Schock story suggests there might be a giant iceberg under that ethical tip.

Is he the only member of Congress to live large? Might he be the lone member of either legislative chamber to, um, take staffers on outings that go far beyond their official duties?

A part of me seriously doubts he’s alone in this kind of alleged misbehavior.

I don’t intend here to beat up on Aaron Schock. He’s going to face authorities back home in Peoria, Ill. What’s more, his resignation from the House stunned his colleagues; Speaker John Boehner didn’t know Schock was leaving until he actually announced it publicly.

The one-time rising GOP star, though, is leaving some questions that need answers.

Is he the only one who has done the things he’s been accused of doing?

I doubt it. Is Congress ever going to look inward and start a thorough House-and-Senate cleaning?

 

The Perry indictment does matter

Glenn Smith directs Progress Texas PAC and believes the indictment handed down by the Travis County grand jury against Gov. Rick Perry matters.

He’s explained why in the essay attached here:

http://tribtalk.org/2014/08/18/why-the-indictment-matters/

Buried in this item is an interesting tidbit that Perry’s supporters need to ponder: The grand jury was not run by a horde of Democrats out to “get” the Republican governor; furthermore, the special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, was selected precisely because he is not a Democratic official. He’s a seasoned lawyer.

That’s an important distinction that should be held up as a reason to treat the indictment seriously and dismiss notions that it’s merely a partisan witch hunt, as Perry himself has implied in his counterattack.

Smith writes: “Lost in all the mooing is the simple thought that savvy, experienced special prosecutor Michael McCrum likely agrees that Perry has the right to veto things he doesn’t like, such as appropriations for the state’s public integrity unit at the Travis County district attorney’s office. McCrum wouldn’t stand by and let the grand jury indict the Constitution. He and the grand jury clearly have something else in mind.”

As for Perry’s public response, let’s also note that the governor has actually threatened the grand jury and the prosecutor by declaring they would be “held accountable.”

The indictment, in my view, won’t result in jail time for the governor. I seriously doubt he’ll get tossed into the slammer. I’m not yet convinced that this case even will go to trial.

The indictment, though, does suggest that a governor’s veto power has its limits. Perry threatened to veto money for the Travis County district attorney’s office public integrity unit after DA Rosemary Lehmberg pleaded guilty to drunk driving. As Smith notes, Lehmberg is elected to her office by Travis County voters and is not a Perry appointee. He demanded her resignation. She declined to quit. Perry then cut the funds.

Smith writes: “Then the real fun began. Perry dispatched his agents to offer a series of enticements to Lehmberg — long after the veto was a historical fact and unavailable as possible legal cover for his actions. The law is pretty clear that a public official cannot offer things of value to another public official in return for an official action that benefits the ‘offering’ party.”

Yes, indeed. This drama is going to be fun to watch — with or without a trial.