Follow the Money - Local Politicians Campaign Contributors
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
DFW REGIONAL CONCERNED CITIZENS TO BEGIN REVIEW OF COMPLIANCE WITH LOCAL GOVT. CODE CHAPTER176 AND ASSESMENT OF PUBLISHED ETHICS POLICIES
DFW REGIONAL CONCERNED CITIZENS believes that ethics and transparency in government is vital for public confidence.
We especially applaud governments who have clearly defined ethics rules and endeavor to achieve full complaince by officials, staff and advisors of their organization and full disclosure by vendors and those seeking to do business with their governmental entity.
We are noticing an uneven application of some key Texas Local Governments ethics rules between governments and political subdivisions in this 16 country region. For several months we have been engaging informally in discussions with various city, county and regional officials about public disclosure and ethics.
We hope that all governmental entities will come into full compliance with Texas Local Government Code 176.
Some governments wrote their ethics rules prior to the 78th and 80th Legislative Session of the Texas Legislature when Chapter 176 was established and amended. We recommend that all governments and political subdivision review the exisiting wording in their ethics codes and bring them into conformity with Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code. In the Side Bar of this site, we have links to the Texas Ethics Boards discussion of Chapter 176 and the disclosure forms, the two house bills which enacted the rules, and the Attorney General's opinion on the application of Chapter 176. We hope these resources will help governments assess these rules and evaluate whether they are in compliance with the regulations.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Chapter 176 applies a broader definition of conflict of interest than the 10% financial interest rule in Chapter 171. Chapter 176 requires decision makers and potential vendors to disclose relationship. Elected officals and their advisors who serve on boards, even if unpaid, must disclose relationships with potential bidders or vendors. The disclosure forms are to be submitted within 7 days of the discovery of a potential bid or intention to pursue business with the government or political subdivision.... These disclosure forms are to be made available to the public. If the governmental entity maintains a website, they are to be posted on the website for the public to examine. The law establishing Chapter 176 clearly states that the intent of the law is to inform the public of the relationships between governmental decision makers and those who contract with or seek to do business with the governmental entity.
We have begun an informal survey of the ethics rules posted on governmental websites in the 16 county NCTCOG region. We are discovering that some bodies approach ethics with a "broad stroke" while others clearly define and spell out the rules. There appears to be a wide gap between those who attempt to educate and enforce ethics rules, especially compliance with Chapter 176, and those who seem to pay less attention to complying with these laws.
We will begin an informal assessment of the ethics rules as posted on governmental websites. We will assess them for content and clarity of the ethics codes in their published policy and for evidence of compliance with Chapter 176 on their websites.
We will publish the degree of compliance and clarity of the published codes on our website. When notified of changes, we will gladly go back and reassess those entities and and publish updates to our assessment.
We do not claim to be experts in ethics or lawyers. We are a citizens group and will view the codes and compliance as citizens. Our goal is to be able to show appreciation to those governments which are leaders in applying high ethical standards to the people's business, and to enable other governments to know that there are examples of excellence in our region. Hopefully, those with identified deficiencies will find other nearby neighbors who they can use as models to inspire and assist them in achieving greater transparency and compliance.
In addition to examining website for ethics, we will also look for ways the government makes it easier for citizens to participate in the process and to be informed in a timely manner of important issues.
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See ARCHIVE on side bar
A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. - Thomas Jefferson