Ethics in Vermont are Under Threat

Ethics in Vermont are under threat. The House Committee on Government Operations is considering a draft bill that will undermine accountability, transparency, and efficacy of ethics standards for Vermont State Officials. There is a hearing and possible vote by the Committee scheduled for Friday.

The draft committee bill proposes the following changes to current law -

"The Ethics Commission, in consultation with the Department of Human Resources, shall create and maintain the State Code of Ethics that sets forth general principles of governmental ethical conduct. These general principles are not enforceable but shall be maintained for officers and employees of State government as a resource to help guide their own ethical decision-making."

“Are not enforceable, but shall be maintained”? Isn't this like relying on people to stick to the speed limit after you announce police will cease pulling people over for speeding? Is trusting in self-policing really an effective practice?

Also proposed in the draft bill -

"The Executive Director may issue advisory opinions that provide general advice or interpretation regarding this chapter or any issue related to governmental ethics. An advisory opinion shall not be issued in response to the request or act of any specific person and shall not contain any personally identifying information but shall generally educate the public about frequently asked questions regarding governmental ethical conduct."

By comparison, as defined in this Legislative Council Report, "under current law, 3 V.S.A. § 1225(b) allows the Executive Director of the Commission to 'issue advisory opinions that provide general advice or interpretation regarding this chapter or any issue related to governmental ethics.' The Executive Director may consult with members of the Commission and the Department of Human Resources in preparing advisory opinions. Advisory opinions are to be posted on the Commission’s website."

CFV worked hard to get Ethics legislation enacted and frankly, what was passed is much more modest than most other states. To undermine this only sets us further behinds.

Vermont’s Ethics Commission was created to serve the people of Vermont, both its citizens and its agents. How can it serve when, by law, it is not allowed to respond to those seeking guidance? CFV asks, what exactly are these politicians afraid of! Vermont should have ethical standards in place to give Vermont citizens confidence in their government and those elected to serve them.

Over the next few days, we will be sending out action alerts through email and on Facebook. Please click to follow us if you are not already doing so. We must speak up now. We the people have the power to affect the outcome of this, but only if we act.

What you can do now:

Email House Government Operations Committee Chair Sarah Copeland-Hanzas and Vice Chair John Gannon and tell them that you OPPOSE the draft ethics bill under consideration in their committee. Tell them that you DO NOT SUPPORT legislation that weakens current ethics standards. We the people have a right to a government by the people, for the people. Strong ethics standards should not rely on self-policing as a vital component to ensuring a prosperous Vermont, for all Vermonters.

Sarah Copeland-Hanzas: scopelandhanzas@leg.state.vt.us

John Gannon: JGannon@leg.state.vt.us

To leave a message with the Seargent at Arms: 802-828-2228

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