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Broward Commissioners on Ethics Bill: WhatEVER

In a conversation that seems to have been recorded at the cafeteria lunch table where the in crowd sits, Broward Mayor Stacy Ritter and Commissioner Ken Keechl decided that fellow Commissioner John Rodstrom is not in-crowd material. That's because Rodstrom's pushing a bill that would bar commissioners from calling upon their political connections to raise money for other political campaigns and third-party charitable organizations.

It's the second excerpt in this Sun-Sentinel post from Ritter's radio program -- which, since Ritter won't talk to that paper, the Miami Herald, and most definitely not New Times, it's the only way to get the mayor talking about county issues outside of  commission chambers (unless you're a lobbyist, of course). Said Ritter:

"If there's one thing I was told when I got elected (to the state legislature) in 1996... one of the first rules was 'You're in politics. If you want a friend, buy a dog,'" says Ritter, admitting that she's paraphrasingTruman or someone like that. "Number two, do your best not to make your colleagues uncomfortable. (Rodstrom's) was a proposal that violated that rule."
Sounds like those two rules contradict each other, and if you've got to pick just one, my advice is go with the first. Who freaking cares if your fellow commissioners feel "uncomfortable" after you introduce legislation that would enhance ethical standards in an era when Palm Beach County politicians are being jailed for deeds that sound an awful lot like business-as-usual in Broward County.

Not to be outdone, Keechl would offer his own flimsy defense of the status quo. (After the jump)

"The argument was made that there's some perception of impropriety when a lobbyist or a lawyer or someone who does business in front of us buys a table (at a charitable event where a commissioner is to appear), but you don't hear those people complaining when they give them campaign contributions. We know right from wrong. It's not a quid pro quo."
Campaign contributions are different, if only because there's a great deal more disclosure as to who the donor is and clues about what kind of policy he may seek. Yes, special interests can still bundle their contributions to exceed the limits on single donors, so it's far from perfect, but it's all the more reason that this other, less-regulated means of currying influence with local politicians is excessive and troubling.

But the most upsetting part of that Keechl statement is the last part -- he seems genuinely offended by the legislation's premise that there needs to be more rigorous standards for dictating "right from wrong" for commissioners. That smacks of a lack of appreciation for the responsibility that comes with public service; namely, that in exchange for the ego-expanding power you wield you must accept a humbling level of scrutiny as to your integrity. You know, because researchers at the Institute of Common Sense have found a correlation between power and the temptation for corruption.

At the very least, Ritter's scandalous associations with a convicted felon running a fraudulent company suggest she could be the focus of an investigation for official misconduct, but Keechl -- sounding like the friend consoling the popular girl who's on the wrong side of a school rumor -- told her, "It makes sexy media print and gossip and rumor and all that other crap."

Crap? Well then, someone should tell U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta because he's getting all ready to come to Broward County and give a formal presentation about this crap.

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Thomas Francis

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