Thursday, May 22, 2008

Where Ethics Go to Die?...

This week the city council rejected the Ethic Ordinance proposed by City Councilors Bruce Stebbins and Pat Markey. The measure failed on a split vote of 4-4 given Councilor Kateri Walsh's absence. Two measures were proposed, one to pass the ordinance and another to send it to committee. Passage to committee might have been as good as death, but not necessarily. Councilor Walsh has expressed reservations about the Ordinance, but supported a Committee referral indicating that had she been there she would have voted to refer the ordinance.

The move by the council was not surprising, especially when taken into consideration who said what. Council Foley, a 26 year veteran of the Council, claimed, according to the Republican, that he was unaware of any Councilor being indicted and that he himself was never accused of dishonesty.

The Republican corrected the record on no councilor's being indicted while in office and noted that some faced scrutiny after leaving office as well. WMassP&I is not accusing Councilor Foley of any dishonesty, but his argument falls flat on two issues. First of all, as with any politician, especially ones in office as long as he, in a city where many officials have been indicted recently, there will be accusations in private. They are kept private because they may be groundless or lack sufficient evidence. Making an accusation under such circumstances may be an invitation to a slander lawsuit, although public officials have a much more difficult time winning those. Secondly, it goes back to removing the appearance of impropriety. True, under ethics laws like those in Boston or Washington, DC, corruption still happens. However, ethics rules enable the good ones to make an effort to prove to voters, especially discriminating ones, that they are on the side of the angels.

Foley was joined by Council President Bud Williams, Councilors Jimmy Ferrera, and disappointingly, Tim Rooke. Rooke, who admirably apologized for the City Council's failure to do all it could to prevent the current financial situation, is seen as having a no-nonsense approach that goes well with ethics reform.

The Republican, in a rare, but admirable display of public condemnation called the four Councilors "An Embarrassment" in today's paper. The Editorial Board attacked the four nay votes in a damning editorial complete with photographs. Although it asked all four what they had to hide, it reserved its most pointed criticism for Councilor Ferrera.

Joining Stebbins and Markey were Councilors Rosemarie Mazza-Moriarty and Jose Tosado. In the most recent election, WMassP&I advised against their reelection, but this move may change that opinion. Mazza-Moriarty's support for reform over not may be due to the humbling experience of losing the IB job at Van Sickle School and her family's recent fall from political power. The Mazza family was once more powerful and held positions including the Hampden County Clerk of Courts. Mazza-Moriarty herself has tried--and failed--to run for office in both the houses of the Massachusetts General Court.

Stebbins and Markey are not giving up. They will re-present their ordinance in the near future. Perhaps in that time they can prod their opponents into supporting it, especially ahead of 2009 ward-rep election.

*Stebbins and Markey Photos obtained from Urban Compass

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