Ethics Commission Delays

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POSTED: Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 5:40pm

UPDATED: Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 7:28pm

Arrests, resignations, and suicide have all afflicted the El Paso County Ethics Commission from the start. Now over a year into the process, they still have no investigations underway - not even a full commission.

We sat down with commission chairman David Nemir to find out why things aren't getting done. He says their ethics code draft is about a month away from completion.

You can read the draft in its entirety by clicking on the link at the bottom of this story.

Once it's completed, it'll take even more time for its approval before the commission can even begin hearing complaints.

"There's a perception that this thing has been dragging on, and while there may be some fairness to that, it is necessary," said Nemir.

This ethics commission is the first of its kind in Texas. Most cities have their own commissions, rather than counties. So Nemir says setting a precedent has been the most tedious part.

"I think we all anticipated that it would take less time than it has," Nemir said.

Set the clock back to November of 2009 - the commission is formed.
Fast forward to August of 2010 - chair David Chavez is arrested for sexual assault.
Fast forward one more month and Chavez commits suicide.
And then - just three months after that - commission member and Chavez's attorney Stuart Leeds resigns, citing too many conflicts of interest.

"Is it discouraging to have those extraneous factors? Well of course it is," Nemir said.

"Paying an extra $20, going down to Alameda Street and getting tickled by a feather; you might have a real issue with that, and somebody else might say what's wrong with that? That's what guys do," said county commissioner Dan Haggerty. He has his own doubts about the commission. For one, he doesn't think elected officials should be held to a higher standard.

"I understand as a public official I shouldn't take money under the table, but I shouldn't do that in the private sector either," he said. He also doesn't think you can define ethics, truth, or morality. So how can you dictate them?

"You finally throw your hands up and say, you know what? We're never going to get there," Haggerty said.

Nemir - who is leaving the commission to sit on another board - says they still meet twice a month and publicize those meetings. And while he's soon putting the commission in the past, the future of the commission is still blurry.

"I happen to like feathers," Haggerty added.

We want to know what you think. Do you think elected officials should be held to a higher standard? Sound off by commenting on this story.

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Ethics Code Draft.pdf6.15 MB

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Yes, elected officials must be held to higher standards since they have so much influence and decide how our tax money is spent.

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