An Ethics Primer

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.

Currents 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:

  1. When accepting a bribe, make sure the cash is placed in a plain brown, manila, or white envelope. Pastels are considered tacky.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. The use of computer-manipulated photographs involving farm animals as blackmail is considered unethical. However, use of unmanipulated photos involving farm animals is permissible.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. It's considered unethical to wire the offices of colleagues and tap their phones--unless they are members of the other party.

  9. 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 his item.

  10. 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.

  11. 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. TW

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