Local Government For Dummies.
By Emil Franzi
THE FIVE MEMBERS of the Pima County Board of Supervisors
have told us they're unclear on the ethical considerations of
their job and have appointed a committee--with a budget of $50,000--to
tell them how to behave.
Other more sophisticated jurisdictions have had similar problems,
usually caused by newly elected members who were unclear about
how to react in certain situations. But at least these other jurisdictions
have something Pima County doesn't have--printed guidelines.
We've discovered the ethical guidelines given new Chicago aldermen
upon election, and we're happy to pass them along to our Board
of Supervisors at no charge:
- When accepting a bribe, make sure the cash is placed in a
plain brown, manila, or white envelope. Pastels are considered
- If it's discovered that more than one alderman is trying to
fix the same job, relatives of an alderman have precedent. If
multiple relatives are involved, the closest relation is given
preference; i.e., brother over cousin. Seniority matters only
when the same level of consanguinity exists.
- It's considered a conflict of interest to sell the same vote
more than once to two separate parties, with the exception of
contracts voted on under secret ballot or in executive session,
at which point multiple bribes are permissible.
- Delegate as many matters as possible to the bureaucracy: Doing
so will give you maximum deniability for any fixes, and it will
allow you to weasel out of a fix you don't want to perform. However,
you must make sure you have the goods on your share of appointees,
so you can continue the fixes under the table. Also, assist your
colleagues in making fixes whenever possible.
- The use of computer-manipulated photographs involving farm
animals as blackmail is considered unethical. However, use of
unmanipulated photos involving farm animals is permissible.
- Return phone calls to constituents should be made by size
of campaign contributions, not in chronological order as received.
The software package issued to your office will greatly aid you
in making these determinations.
- When sucking up to a reporter who offers to buy lunch, it's
considered unethical to bring along more than three other people
from the categories relatives/staff/friends. Colleagues wanting
a freebie are exempt from this count.
- It's considered unethical to wire the offices of colleagues
and tap their phones--unless they are members of the other party.
- Concerning rezonings: It's ethical to vote against a contributor
when the item is in your own ward--as long as that contributor
has sufficient votes from your colleagues to ensure passage of
- When shaking down a contractor or other vendor, it's considered
unethical to do so in front of more than one other person. It's
acceptable if that one person is your own staffer, as witnesses
are sometimes necessary to ensure the bastards pay up.
- Make sure that your government vehicle is not ostentatious,
because constituents resent this. Of course you should feel free
to load up an otherwise low-key vehicle with extras like a CD
system, wet bar, TV set and a bigger engine.
Remember, your primary role is to make policy. To that end, eliminating
the mundane, day-to-day duties of elective office will give you
more time to make the big decisions on such weighty issues as
finding a lobbyist to pick up the tab for dinner, locating free
junkets at taxpayer expense, and identifying which motel rooms
have the best porn flicks. Besides, constituent service is a pain
in the ass.