Wednesday, January 23, 2008

To Serve or Not To Serve?

Much ado at the County Commission over the failure to enact a rule barring County employees from serving on Commission. A good discussion is taking place in the comments on the KNS web site:

There are certainly many conflicts that would exist for any Knox County employee, and a senior member of any office (Trustee, Property, Sheriff's) would have too many conflicts to serve effectively. But is it right (or even legal) to bar thousands of others from serving on Commission?

A good argument is made that our tax dollars already pay their salary and they shouldn't be distracted from their normal duties. That's true, but since they can elect to burn vacation to do a second job of any kind, is it legal to bar them from this one?

It's a tough call. One solution I put forth is to extend and strengthen the conflict of interest rules to include the commissioners themselves, family members, major contributors, etc; to include votes affecting budget, pay, hiring, firing, etc; and to require recusal. Thus, a county employee could still serve (avoiding the disenfranchisement argument), but couldn't vote on anything where a conflict existed (e.g., Mr. Tramel and Mr. Pinkston couldn't vote on any issue regarding the Sheriff's office). Someone with enough ties might not be able to vote half the time - that's something the voters can take into account when they elect that candidate. Such a mechanism would also limit the ability of a few major campaign contributions to buy a candidate/office.

I'm not 100% sold on this approach though, so... your thoughts?

1 comment:

Steve said...

This idea was brought up before Commission on 1/28, and Commissioner Harmon was invited to write up a proposal. I submitted the following:

Commissioners are required to disclose a conflict of interest and is required to abstain of votes where a conflict of interest exists. A conflict of interest for a Knox County commissioner shall be defined as a situation where any of the following exists:

- The proposed action involves the recommendation for hire, hiring, firing, promotion, transfer, advancement, of the Commissioner, a relative or major contributor within Knox County Government.

- The proposed action involves the definition of personnel policies including pay, vacation, overtime, promotion, travel, or expense allowances of the Commissioner.

- The proposed action involves appointments of replacements in an office where the Commissioner, a relative or major contributor is employed.

- The proposed action involves the recommendation, award, or approval of a contract or grant to company
owned by a relative or major contributor, or a business entity where the Commissioner, a relative or major contributor acts as an officer of that entity.

For the purposes of this resolution a "relative" shall be defined as any of the following: parent, spouse, sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or grandchild.

For the purposes of this resolution a "major contributor" shall be defined as anyone who has made total contributions exceeding $250 in any election cycle for any public elected office during the previous 8 years.