There was a brilliant American movie that came out in the late 70s. I rank it right up there with Rashomon as a profound statement on the nature of reality or The Seventh Seal as a meditation on the meaning of life. Some might even argue it had more appeal than Sixteen Candles. It was called The Jerk.
The hero of the movie, an idiot played by Steve Martin, invents an eye glass extension called the Opti-Grab that allows people to put on and take of their glasses with ease. His invention becomes a rage and he makes millions of dollars, only to be bankrupted as the invention turns everybody cross-eyed.
I’m beginning to feel like the character in that movie. In this regard, I have an invention. No, it isn’t a thing. It’s an idea. It’s a concept -- a way of approaching ethics enforcement. And it’s pretty simple:
I say that ethics enforcers need to be independent, that they ought not to be too close to the people they are supposed to regulate.
I say that ethics enforcers should hold themselves to a higher standard than anyone else – that is, obey all laws (including parking laws) and avoid any conflicts of appearance.
I say that ethics enforcement bodies ought to focus first on core responsibilities and not delve into areas where their jurisdiction is questionable at best.
I say that when your commissioners vote that you don’t have jurisdiction over legislative actions before your agency was created you ought to listen.
I say that the perception of being controlled by your appointing authority is becoming reality.
I say that ethics enforcement isn’t a secret process in which a special chosen few mete out justice in the form of infallible writs, but a highly subjective endeavor that can only be rationalized through a deliberative public process.
I say that you don’t hold hearings about an ethics law that’s already gone into effect unless you state that you will not enforce that law until after the hearings conclude and regulations are published.
I say that ethics enforcers ought to get off their well-attired and arrogant asses and actually do something after being in office for months other than complain that they are too busy and don’t have enough funding. You can start by actually speaking to your staff individually as you promised you would.
And I say top ethics enforcers during the creation of an agency ought to put in a 40-hour work week at the office – not a make believe office in a different city, but the headquarters where they should be motivating and supervising the staff.
These apparently radical notions have made some people lose their sense of humor and become positively cross-eyed. They are angry at me and calling me, yes, dear old lovable me, a jerk!
I suppose it had to come to this, right? And I’ve been called worse, but you only get two free passes when it comes to calling me names, after that . . .
Oh well, just like the character in the movie, I think I’m about to find both my “special purpose” and my rhythm.
Stay tuned. It might be time to shoot some oil cans.