On Monday night, Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos will present a proposed code of ethics for Town Council and others in town government to live by. The timing of it, nearly a year after the Bill Strom shenanigans, strikes me as locking the barn door after the cow has wandered off. But it seems the proposal is in response to state law 2009-403 that requires the governing boards of all North Carolina municipalities to adopt a code of ethics by Jan. 1, 2011.

Last month, the UNC School of Government put out a guidebook of model codes of ethics for officials in local government. Karpinos, one of the North Carolina lawyers who reviewed the guidebook and provided feedback during its development, will present the five key code requirements mandated by law and will summarize the model presented in the 69-page guidebook. I have yet to see the man crack a smile, and I don’t expect to see one Monday night.

The five requirements perhaps started out well-intentioned, but by the time they went through the Lawyer Detailing Shop, they have enough qualifiers on them to make even the most evasive teenager raise a pierced eyebrow in awe. Here are the requirements decked out in all their lawyered-up verbiage:

1. The need to obey all applicable laws regarding official actions taken as a board member.
2. The need to uphold the integrity and independence of the board member’s office.
3. The need to avoid impropriety in the exercise of the board member’s official duties.
4. The need to faithfully perform the duties of the office.
5. The need to conduct the affairs of the governing board in an open and public manner, including complying with all applicable laws governing open meetings and public records.

Here’s my life-lived-simple version of the code of ethics I’d like my elected officials to follow:

1. Obey all laws.
2. Conduct yourself with integrity and don’t sell out.
3. Behave as if what you do could be captured on a cell-phone video and posted on YouTube.
4. Do the job you were elected to do.
5. Recognize that if you don’t want people to see what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

I was going to launch into a diatribe of the six men running for sheriff this year in North Carolina counties who have felony convictions. But I’ve run out of room. And the code of ethics won’t take effect until after the November elections anyhow.
— Nancy Oates

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1 Comment

  1. Leroy

     /  May 7, 2010

    Behave as if you might be on YouTube because chances are you will be in this social media age.