I’ve got an op-ed in the Providence Journal today about the state Ethics Commission’s dismissal of a complaint I made on a local issue. To be more specific, the commission’s director and his staff of lawyers dismissed the complaint based on some principle that isn’t anywhere in any law, rule, or other text that I can find or that the lawyers can tell me about:
The only explanation I can see is that Mr. Willever and his team of lawyers are applying some unwritten principle that more resembles faith than reason. One could say that they believe in a doctrine of ethical infallibility for government agents who are acting ex cathedra. As long as a government official is not tainted by any wicked temptations from the private sector, everything he or she does must be ethical. …
The frightening judgment of the Ethics Commission is apparently that government officials are a class apart, a ruling elite — almost a priestly order dispensing truth to the masses in accord with the will of government.
The more I sift through the weeds of Rhode Island politics, the more its problems become defined for me. Previously, I’d thought of the Ethics Commission as a toe hold (albeit a weak and tiny one) for asserting the rule of law in the Ocean State. Sure, it had become a tool for government officials to define everything up to the absolutely unethical line as ethical, but at least there was a line.
It was a great disappointment to learn that the Ethics Commission does not appear to be what I’d hoped it was. How dramatic an overhaul the state needs, if that’s the case!