Effingham County commissioners at least are continuing to talk about what needs to be in an ethics policy. That’s a start, and it needs to be finished.
That there isn’t a policy already in place to address ethics issues for the commissioners and their appointees is unsettling. But they can set that right, hopefully, in the next few weeks.
The policy under review would outline who handles ethics complaints and how they would be addressed. It will set up a chain of action to weigh those complaints.
Elected officials who aren’t executing the duties assigned to them in an aboveboard and ethical fashion are prime candidates for removal by either recall or the instrument that put them in office in the first place, the ballot box. Yet each is not a perfect solution.
Recall efforts, by their nature, are difficult. It protects against capricious attempts to remove elected officials.
But waiting for another election cycle also carries an inherent set of dangers. It could be months or even years before voters get to act on the continued service of an official whose actions have been deemed to be unethical.
An ethics policy with a remedy for action could easily fill in those gaps. It also could be set up to guard against complaints of a frivolous nature.
Yet the most important facet of an ethics policy may be just its mere existence and the air it could engender among the citizens. The public needs to know that the people voted into office are going about their jobs in a professional and forthright manner.
When the citizens vote a candidate into office, they place their trust in that person to go carry out their duties the right way. Across the nation, the public’s view of elected officials grows dimmer and dimmer. Why not shine the bright light of a long overdue ethics policy?
It boils down to a matter of trust. The voters place their trust and faith in an elected official, and they want to know that trust and faith are well-placed. An ethics policy would go a long way to ensure that those qualities are in good hands — and when they are not, it gives those voters a chance to do something about it.