You can’t legislate morality. While we try to limit bad behavior in politicians with ethics laws, it seems the more complex the laws become the less they are followed. What we need are ethical politicians.
Take the case of the recent dealings here in Georgia by a group of Commissioners in Cobb County falling all over themselves to get the Atlanta Braves to build a stadium in their district. In response to accusations about failing to hold open meetings when required by law, the Commissioners released the following statement: “No quorum existed during the briefings on the stadium project while at the Chamber of Commerce.”
Really? The open meetings act requires public access at any meeting where there are enough elected officials to make up a quorum and they talk about public business. And all of the Commissioners were at the Chamber of Commerce where meetings about the stadium project were taking place. Why weren’t these meetings open to the public?
It turns out because only two members were in the briefing room at the same time. Really. I am not making this up.
This type of behavior has become all too common, where politicians come up with 'clever' ways to get around laws designed to show taxpayers how they scheme to take our money. Please don’t think it is just Cobb County. This goes on everywhere, every day. In fact, the maneuver where politicians rotate in and out to avoid a quorum is so common it has a name – a “revolving door” meeting.
Watch a movie like Batman and the corruption is obvious. Unfortunately in real life unethical behavior is not nearly as easy to spot. It is frequently buried deep within campaign disclosure forms, hidden behind fake email addresses, or done in a way where there is no paper trail. I always get suspicious when I send an email to a politician asking a simple question and they reply simply “Call me.”
The only answer I can come up with is to elect ethical representatives. How? I don’t have any idea. It seems good people are easily turned to the dark side once they start hanging around with people who have been in office for years. But we have try. We have to keep looking for decent people who will do the right thing.