Cutting Through NJ’s Ethics Red Tape [AUDIO]
The State Ethics Commission would have dramatically expanded power under a stalled bill in the New Jersey legislature.
The measure's sponsor says the legislation would provide real oversight and sorely needed transparency at the municipal and school district levels which have had their share of corrupt officials.
The bill sponsored by Assemblyman Dave Wolfe would make the State Ethics Commission solely responsible for overseeing local and school ethics issues. The legislation was referred to an Assembly committee where it was dead on arrival.
"There are three or four different venues that people can go to if they have an ethics complaint," explains Wolfe. "They're not consolidated. Each one has different standards. The goal of this legislation which is almost two years old now is to consolidate this into the State Ethics Commission which already exists and has done a very good job."
For years, the Garden State had been the butt of jokes by late night talk show hosts, because of our seemingly unending list of corrupt government officials says Wolfe, but elected officials who breach the public's trust by using their position to break the law is no laughing matter.
"There is the one State Ethics Commission that we want to use as the template," explains Wolfe. "That would be the one that would really be dealing with all the issues [...] I think that would really give some solace to our residents who are really concerned about what they see going on almost daily or weekly."
Under Wolfe's bill, the State Ethics Commission would issue a uniform code of ethics to govern the conduct of local and school officials. It would be authorized to conduct investigations, hold hearings, issue subpoenas, initiate, hear and review complaints and conduct audits of ethics procedures and policies.
The legislation also calls for stronger penalties and would require the commission to provide a financial disclosure form for use by local and school officials, who would be required to put it on their Internet websites for convenient downloading.