If Trenton Can Do It, So Can We

Posted: August 23, 2012 in County Wide
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The Citizens Campaign reported yesterday on some good news coming out of Trenton:

Citizens create Trenton Ethics Board

August 22, 2012

For the past few months all eyes have been on Trenton as FBI squads raid city hall and carry out boxes of documents. No one knows who the target is, or what the charges are, but all of this has put a cloud over our capital city. So it is refreshing to have a ray of sunshine emanating from city hall. After more than a year of working and lobbying the city council, Marge Berkeyheiser, Vertulie Massenat, and other Trenton residents were successful in creating a Trenton Ethics Board.

Seeking the advice of The Citizens Campaign, the Trenton residents put together a model ordinance, presented it to the council, and remained diligent in following up and getting the ethics board unanimously approved by the City Council on August 17th.

Now comes the most important part, getting Trenton citizens to apply to serve on the Ethics Board. As Marge told the Trenton Times, “the proposed Trenton ethics board will succeed only if council appoints independent thinkers of integrity, not just city employees or politically connected types with potential conflicts of interest.” We couldn’t agree more!

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2012/08/trenton_residents_lobby_for_cr.html

Sussex County should have its own Ethics Board. How? State law makes it easy:

40A:9-22.13 Establishment of county ethics board

a. Each county of the State governed under the provisions of P.L.1972, c.154 (C.40:41A-1 et seq.) may, by ordinance, and the remaining counties may, by resolution establish a county ethics board consisting of six members who are residents of the county, at least two of whom shall be public members. The members of the ethics board shall be appointed by the governing body of the county and no more than one of whom shall be from the same municipality. The members shall be chosen by virtue of their known and consistent reputation for integrity and their knowledge of local government affairs. No more than three members of the ethics board shall be of the same political party.

b. The members of the county ethics board shall annually elect a chairman from among the membership.

c. The members shall serve for a term of five years; except that of the members initially appointed, two of the public members shall be appointed to serve for a term of five years, one member shall be appointed to serve for a term of four years, and the remaining members shall be appointed to serve for a term of three years. Each member shall serve until his successor has been appointed and qualified. Any vacancy occurring in the membership of the ethics board shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment for the unexpired term.

d. Members of the ethics board shall serve without compensation but shall be reimbursed by the county for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties under this act.

L.1991,c.29,s.13.

40A:9-22.15 County code of ethics established

Within 90 days after the establishment of a county ethics board, that ethics board shall promulgate, by resolution, a county code of ethics for all local government officers and employees serving the county. Local government officers and employees serving a county independent authority shall be deemed to be serving the county for purposes of this act.

The county code of ethics so promulgated shall be either identical to the provisions set forth in section 5 of this act or more restrictive, but shall not be less restrictive. Within 15 days following the promulgation thereof, the county code of ethics, and a notice of the date of the public hearing to be held thereon, shall be published in at least one newspaper circulating within the county and shall be distributed to the county clerk and to the heads of the local government agencies serving the county for circulation among the local government officers and employees serving the county. The county ethics board shall hold a public hearing on the county code of ethics not less than 30 days following its promulgation at which any local government officer or employee serving the county and any other person wishing to be heard shall be permitted to testify. As a result of the hearing, the ethics board may amend or supplement the county code of ethics as it deems necessary. If the county code of ethics is not identical to the provisions set forth in section 5 of this act, the county ethics board shall thereafter submit the county code of ethics to the Local Finance Board for approval. The board shall approve or disapprove a county code of ethics within 60 days following receipt. If the board fails to act within that period, the county code of ethics shall be deemed approved. A county code of ethics requiring board approval shall take effect for all local government officers and employees serving the county 60 days after approval by the board. A county code of ethics identical to the provisions set forth in section 5 of this act shall take effect 10 days after the public hearing thereon. The county ethics board shall forward a copy of the county code of ethics to the county clerk and shall make copies of the county code of ethics available to local government officers and employees serving the county.

L.1991,c.29,s.15.

40A:9-22.16 Powers of county ethics board

A county ethics board shall have the following powers:

a. To initiate, receive, hear and review complaints and hold hearings with regard to possible violations of the county code of ethics or financial disclosure requirements by local government officers or employees serving the county;

b. To issue subpoenas for the production of documents and the attendance of witnesses with respect to its investigation of any complaint or to the holding of a hearing;

c. To forward to the county prosecutor or the Attorney General or other governmental body any information concerning violations of the county code of ethics or financial disclosure requirements by local government officers or employees serving the county which may become the subject of criminal prosecution or which may warrant the institution of other legal proceedings by the Attorney General;

d. To render advisory opinions to local government officers or employees serving the county as to whether a given set of facts and circumstances would constitute a violation of any provision of the county code of ethics or financial disclosure requirements;

e. To enforce the provisions of the county code of ethics and financial disclosure requirements with regard to local government officers or employees serving the county and to impose penalties for the violation thereof as are authorized by this act; and

f. To adopt rules and regulations and to do other things as are necessary to implement the purposes of this act.

L.1991,c.29,s.16.

Other counties have it. Isn’t it time we had a County Ethics Board?

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