New Mexico voters took an important step toward more enlightened government last November when they overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to establish a state ethics commission.
They did so with the understanding state lawmakers would heed the state’s sordid history of elected-officials-turned-felons and craft enabling legislation granting a commission powers aimed at getting to the bottom of complaints and one that would do much, if not all, of its business in the open.
The two bills introduced so far can only be described as terrible, and not as bad.
The “worst of show” ribbon goes to SB 619, proposed by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, whose vision would ensure ethics complaints remain secret unless the commission decides after back-room hearings there had been a violation of law or the accused signs a waiver of confidentiality. The person filing the complaint would actually have to sign a confidentiality agreement, and anyone who discloses confidential complaints or investigations could face fines up to $10,000 and up to a year in jail, and a judge could impose a civil penalty up to $25,000.