The recent article by Andrea Gallo concerning the 2008 ethics reform legislation lacks the substance worthy of such an important subject. Rather than an objective critique of specific legislation and potential alternatives, the article appears committed to proving that the reforms have failed, despite acknowledging that “it’s nearly impossible” to compare pre- and post-reform outcomes due to a lack of record keeping by the board prior to 2008.
Instead, Gallo relies on a few high-profile cases and politically charged comments to portray the enforcement system as worse and, by extension, to cast a negative veil over the entire 2008 reform initiative. As The Advocate has exhaustively reported, the 2008 Ethics Session accomplished much more than simply revising the enforcement process. On the contrary, it created legislation governing a wide range of activities affecting the integrity of public service, including financial disclosures, contracting, ethics training, and lobbying.
There is no serious question that the 2008 reforms dramatically improved the culture of governmental ethics statewide, elevated the public’s awareness of and expectations regarding such issues, and improved the image of a state plagued by decades of good ole boy politics. Perhaps the decrease in recent complaints against legislators and in the number of charges filed by the board, as reported by Gallo, demonstrate that the reforms have been successful. The proof lies in the results, not the process.
Jimmy R. Faircloth, Jr.