Monday, December 12, 2016

Elections Ethics Commissioner Resigns over "overbearing nit-picking...(that will) erode staff morale...perhaps that is the goal."

Wisconsin's new election commission looked like it was operating well when it okay the Jill Stein recount. I was wrong. Madison Newspapers:
State ethics commissioner Robert Kinney, a state reserve judge, announced his resignation Monday from the new watchdog agency, saying it operates too secretly and that some commissioners aren't committed to aggressively enforcing ethics and campaign finance laws.

The scathing statement depicts the new commission, created by Republican lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker last year to replace the Government Accountability Board, as riven by infighting among commissioners ... lacking commitment to its core mission: acting as the state watchdog of elected officials by enforcing ethics, campaign finance and lobbying laws.

"There exists among several of the commissioners an observable lack of commitment to the underlying purposes of the agency," Kinney said in the statement. “On top of this, staff are confronted with overbearing nit-picking at virtually every meeting. Over time (if it hasn’t already happened) this disrespectful treatment will erode staff morale and we will lose these talented people. Perhaps that is the goal."

As a new agency, we were required to articulate a mission statement. The staff of the Commission hearkened back to Wisconsin’s reputation when it proposed the following as our mission statement: 

"The mission of the Ethics Commission is to enhance representative democracy by furthering Wisconsin’s tradition of clean and open government through the administration of Wisconsin’s campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws, and through dissemination of information to the public.”
At the October 10, 2016 public meeting of the Commission, incredibly, three members – one-half of the Commission’s membership – voted to strike from the mission statement the aspirational language, 'furthering Wisconsin’s tradition of clean and open government.' The handwriting was on the wall. When charges of financial or ethical improprieties are leveled, or allegations of quid pro quo corruption are made, they must be thoroughly and timely investigated, and, if warranted, aggressively prosecuted. Sadly, it appears we have created a system which almost guarantees that this will not occur. It would be an enormous injustice to the People of Wisconsin and to the success of our government in serving them if this agency is relegated to shuffling papers."

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