A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Government Officials and Their Commercial Interests

The Matawan Borough Council is reportedly having a dispute over an ordinance that would forbid council members from doing business with the borough while in office. There is an article in today's Asbury Park Press that provides extensive coverage. See a 16 July letter to the editor that seems to have been first to bring up the issue.

With the recent arrests of many state and local government officials in the state, no doubt some folks want to do something about rampant public corruption. But I think the borough and other local governments would be wise to leave the laws alone. Properly enforced ethics rules, adequate Sunshine Laws, and vigorous oversight by law enforcement, the press, and an interested public typically will suffice to prevent most if not all abuse in local government. Why bar local business leaders by statute from seeking political office simply because they do some business with the local government? An ethical approach would be for an official to recuse himself/herself on matters before the council that might personally benefit that official.

If citizens carefully weigh their choices and elect quality people to local office, and if citizens are participating actively in their community by attending public meetings, following the local news, and keeping track of goings-on in local government, they're doing their part in keeping government on the straight and narrow. On the other hand, if they don't do these things, they are the epitome of See No Evil and truly no new laws will keep graft and corruption from infesting municipal government.


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