Certainly, in most situations, having extra checks and balances in place helps to ensure fair practices. This is the idea behind scandal-scarred San Bernardino County’s latest move. They are setting their sights to become the first local government in the state of California to bring in an ethics program with the Fair Political Practices Commission.
They’ve hit a snag, however, as they need legislation that would allow the watchdog agency to provide this service – and the deadline is fast approaching in two weeks. As Ann Ravel, the chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission explained,
“Clearly San Bernardino has had issues with its ethics oversight over the years. We’ve been working with the county on this. I think it’s a really good idea.”
The last day that policy committees have to pass bills that would have a fiscal impact is April 27th, so time is getting tight.
While county supervisors originally suggested that the county set up its own ethics commission, this was quickly dismissed as a ridiculous idea. As Supervisor Janice Rutherford said, “When I suggested having the Board of Supervisors appoint an ethics commission, people laughed. That’s like the fox guarding the henhouse.”
Time will tell if they get the required legislation in place to bring in the commission. As of yet, concrete discussions of the cost for such a commission haven’t been finalized and this could also create a stumbling block. Rutherford envisions a contract that would be about $100,000 to $200,000 annually and that would include random audits, trainings, the creation of contribution limits and other highly beneficial services.