Wednesday, August 27, 2008
County Revives Five-Member Ethics Board
By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer
Bernalillo County is reviving its ethics board — dormant since 1999 — to handle any future complaints about conflicts of interest, misuse of public property and other allegations.
The five-member board is mandated by county ordinance but hasn't met for almost a decade. To get it going again, county commissioners on Tuesday appointed former county manager Juan Vigil and optometrist Francis Duffy Jr. to fill the remaining vacancies.
Commission Chairman Alan Armijo said the launch of the board came after someone sent an anonymous letter threatening to file an ethics complaint about a county official. He didn't recall details of the letter.
"The attorneys realized we didn't have anybody in place for that," Armijo said.
The board is charged with investigating complaints about employees or officials accused of violating the county's ethics code, which prohibits conflicts of interest, acceptance of certain gifts and use of public property for personal benefit.
The board can reprimand, terminate or issue other sanctions on rank-and-file employees. Its power to impose penalties on elected or appointed officials is unclear, but anyone who refuses to obey a lawful order from the board is guilty of a misdemeanor and can face jail time and fines.
The board will meet soon to approve resolutions outlining how it will operate. But after that, it might never meet again if there are no complaints filed, Armijo said.
"I think it's always good to have measures of accountability," County Commissioner Teresa Córdova said.
Rounding out the board's membership are Joseph Holloway, Barbara Garrity and Don Bruckner.