I get positively giddy when I actually get to blog about something positive, and these days, those opportunities are rare. But what do you know–Indianapolis’ new Mayor, Joe Hogsett, has provided me with that opportunity!
According to the Indianapolis Star, the Mayor is moving aggressively to close the gaping loopholes in the City’s ethics ordinance.
Today when a lobbyist wines and dines a City-County Council member, he or she has to disclose the cost of the meal, but not who ate it.
This is among a number of loopholes in the city ethics code that Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is attempting to close with a package of reforms introduced at this week’s council meeting.
Co-sponsored by Democratic Councilmen Blake Johnson and Leroy Robinson, the ordinance would strengthen reporting requirements, impose stronger penalties for violations and create a web portal for easier public access to ethics disclosures. It would also establish a cooling-off period similar to that for state employees.
Many of the provisions contained in the ethics overhaul were introduced last year by then-Councilor Kip Tew. For reasons I have never understood, the Council declined to pass Tew’s version, which was very similar to the one introduced on behalf of Mayor Hogsett. Now, they will have another chance.
Under the pending proposal, lobbyists who repeatedly break the rules could find themselves and their firms subjected to lifetime bans. Contractors who violate the ordinance could be banned for a single offense.
These changes are long overdue. In the six years the current ordinance has been in effect, there has not been a single effort to enforce it, despite multiple accusations of “cozy” relationships between elected officials and those doing business with the city.
Giving the rules real teeth, making them clearer, and making access to documentation easier, will go a long way toward restoring trust in local government.
Now if we could just do something about ethical standards at the General Assembly….