Sunday, September 03, 2000

Report: Ethics tangled

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Local government ethics rules are vague, ill-defined, weakly enforced and complicated by hundreds of different versions that often conflict, a report from the state auditor said Friday.

        A 1994 law requires cities and counties to enact codes of ethics for employees and officials.

        “Ethics legislation was intended to give citizens greater assurance of ethical conduct by local government officials,” state auditor Ed Hatchett said in a statement.

        “While the legislation was a good first step, its effectiveness has been diminished by vagueness, lack of definitions and weak enforcement caused by an unwieldy, decentralized system.”

        Two counties and 46 cities have had funds suspended for not complying with the ethics code requirements.

        The Department for Local Government is charged with collecting the local rules from 120 counties and more than 400 cities.

        The law requires the local codes cover standards of conduct, financial disclosure, nepotism and enforcement. But the law makes no specific requirements, so a local code could actually allow or even encourage nepotism.

        The audit recommends that the legislature should adopt definitions applicable to all local codes, make more clear that the ethics rules should govern certain conduct and give more power to local boards of ethics.


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