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Forget Commissions and Just Prosecute

An opportunity to follow up on yesterday’s post and conveniently respond to Matt Brix’s comment (can always count on Matt for civil discourse on the topic of ethics):

Days after he took office in January 2007, Attorney General Gary King told me, through a spokesman, that an investigation of the scandal that toppled most of the state’s affordable housing system in 2006 would be a top priority.

Sixteen months later, some are beginning to wonder.

It’s not that nothing has happened. The AG has successfully obtained court orders to boot three tenants from homes owned by the Albuquerque-based Region III Housing Authority because they didn’t qualify for affordable housing. Two were employees of the authority and one was a board member.

What do you think? Could this have all been avoided if only we had had an ethics commission in place to “provide training for public officials and public employees” involved in this scandal?

Yeah, somehow I don’t think so either.

Here’s what it boils down to for me. I believe that the vast majority people are good and lead their lives in an ethical manner. They’ll find a wallet and return it to its rightful owner. Forget the wallet, they’ll find a bag filled with $140,000 and turn it in because they know in their “gut that to keep that money would be wrong.”

Unfortunately, there are those that choose to ignore their gut. Those people are criminal. Those people should be prosecuted and thrown in jail. We don’t need a commission to educate them on what is ethical, we need a prosecutor willing to do their job.

Matt, my friend, the people’s government can be held accountable every day. We don’t have to wait until an election. We can draw attention to prosecutors who fail to prosecute. We can shine a spotlight on those who conduct their unethical behavior in the shadows. We can even demand justice.

But, what we must not do is create yet another government commission that makes people feel like they don’t need to be diligent and civilly active because of the assumption that some third party is going to take care of it for them. Just because many other states have chosen to rely on this crutch, does not make it right.