Drafting Common Sense Policies

Don Fenley reports that the Sullivan County Ethics Committee is hard at work drafting detailed policy on what types of gifts leaders can and cannot accept.

The County’s current ethics code prohibits officials and employees from accepting gifts that a “reasonable person would understand was intended to influence the vote, official action, or judgment of the official or employee in executing county business.”

Chairman of the County Commission’s Ethics Committee Tommy Kerns told the Bristol Herald Courier this was too confusing and ambiguous for county officials and employees to follow. It also left too much room for interpretation.

Man, you gotta love it when government attempts to quantify things, which should be common sense. Alas, there’s many shades of gray between a cash-stuffed envelope marked BRIBE and a knock-off Bic logo pen.

Thus the committee has provided greater detail about which items can be accepted. Those appropriate are:

  • Personal gifts from relatives or friends unrelated to county business.
  • Gifts that can be shared with everyone in a person’s work area.
  • Business meals considered to be part of a normal business activity.
  • Items considered part of someone’s participation in a community event.
  • Promotional items designed to advertise a business or industry.
  • Contest prizes or discounts that are offered to the general public.
  • Gifts provided as part of an employer-employee relationship.

To eliminate ambiguity, however, they should add the following exceptions:

  • Personal gift from friend, who is also the CEO, President, leader, owner, director of (or lobbyist for) any company, agency or organization, which is in excess of $500, and/or was given to you while said CEO, president, leader, owner, director or lobbyist was winking, and/or could later be described by your defense attorney as a “consulting fee – should not be accepted.
  • Business meals or gifts of food, which exceed your personal body weight, should not be accepted.
  • Any gift/prize/item, which comes with a deed or title, should not be accepted.
  • Livestock should not be accepted.
  • Any gifts/prize/item, which involves hookers, including but not limited to meals/dates with hookers, or any discounts provided for the services of hookers, should not be accepted. In fact, officials should avoid all activities involving hookers, including but not limited to gay hookers. (Hooker should be defined by committee as anyone offering sexual favors in return for any compensation benefiting self or others even if said person does not routinely engage in the act of “hooking”. This would include the slutty secretary/assistant/sister of any CEO, president, leader, owner, director or lobbyist for any company, agency or organization.
  • All unopened bottles of beverages containing alcohol should be reviewed by an unbiased third party to determine whether or not they are acceptable. For the sake of good government, I will volunteer to serve in this capacity for all surrounding counties. I do have a panel of experts at my disposal. So, please submit all bottles for testing. If content is deemed unacceptable, I will properly dispose of this for you. (PS: If you could submit these before the expert panel convenes on Saturday night, that would be great.)

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