A quick ethics round-up

Time for a quick look at recent ethics issues that have come up in other spots around the country.

From New York: “NY State lawmakers to disclose outside income, clients this week

A stack of disclosure forms showing how much outside income state lawmakers make and which clients they represent will be made public for the first time this week.

The state’s 2011 ethics law required lawmakers and certain state officials to disclose more about their outside business interests — including a list of clients they represent — than previously required. For lawmakers, those forms are set to be transferred by Sunday to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, which is expected to post them publicly within the next week.

The level of disclosure has been touted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and good-government groups as unprecedented in New York and is expected to shine light on lawmakers’ ties to those they represent.

This is really a level of disclosure that’s needed here in Hawaii, where many legislators and other top state officials are attorneys or hold licenses to sell insurance or real estate, but do not currently have to publicly identify their clients. Those clients remain anonymous even when they appear before the same legislators in their official capacity.

Florida: “Ethics complaint filed against Mayor Alvin Brown over failing to disclose gifts.

A Northeast Florida private investigator filed a complaint Thursday with the Florida Commission on Ethics accusing Mayor Alvin Brown of failing to properly disclose gifts he’s received.

David Hodges, who runs Fine Tooth Comb Investigations of Orange Park, submitted with his complaint a copy of a story that ran Tuesday in the Times-Union about Brown’s travel being paid for by others. He also included public records he received from the city related to Brown’s travel.

In the Tuesday story, the Times-Union reported the city has reimbursed about $8,700 to donors who paid for some travel expenses related to 14 trips for official business. All of the expenses were for Brown, except one trip that included his chief administrative officer and another trip for a legislative aide.

From the Huffington Post: “Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling Will Tighten Ethics And Campaign Finance Laws

The Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act will alter a host of ethics and campaign finance laws that apply to elected and appointed officials as well as campaign donors.

Ethics laws requiring disclosure of spousal income, banning gifts to spouses from certain sources and banning nepotism will now apply to elected, executive and federal agency officials in same-sex marriages and unions. Also, married same-sex couples will now be able to give joint contributions from a single bank account to political campaigns.

This is a consequence I hadn’t previously been aware of, so I suppose the state and county ethics commissions will have to advise those subject to ethics laws of the expanded requirements stemming from this court decision.

From Louisiana: “State law forbidding disclosure of ethics complaints challenged by whistleblowers

A couple once accused of violating a state law by talking to the media about their ethics complaint against St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have the obscure statue ruled unconstitutional. The suit on behalf of former coroner’s office employee Laura King and her husband, Terry, was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans by their attorney, Al J. Robert Jr.

The suit asks the court to invalidate the law because it is “unconstitutionally vague and it infringes on the First and Fourteenth Amendments . . . “

This certainly sounds familiar. I was the plaintiff in a similar federal lawsuit involving a similar confidentiality provision of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission. The case, Lind v. Grimmer, resulted in the law being declared unconstitutional, and has since been cited in many other cases. The district court decision by Judge Alan Kay and the subsequent 9th Circuit decision on the state’s appeal both make good reading. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

One response to “A quick ethics round-up

  1. I have a problem with Hawaii Administrative Rules section 19-34-1.1: “Any information or item required to be provided by section 261-12, Hawaii Revised Statutes, and this chapter prior to the issuance of a Tour Aircraft Operators Permit shall be utilized only for the purposes of obtaining information for airport planning and ground safety…” Does this mean Department of Transportation-collected information that proves a violation of state laws or county ordinances can’t be reprinted or used in court?

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