Ethics Board Can Head Off Another Operation Bid Rig

The following commenatry appeared int he Asbury Park Press yesterday. It was written by Arthur Z. Kamin of Fair Haven who is an independent journalist and who has written about Monmouth County politics before.

In his commentary he states that the idea for the newly created Monmouth County Ethics Board is a good one that is long over due and that and ethic board could prevent another Operation Bid Rig from happening again in Monmouth County:

Now that the election is over, the five-member Monmouth County Board of Freeholders — in a split vote along political lines — finally adopted a strong ethics structure to give the county the watchdog agency it needs to help ensure honest government. The long-overdue action came Tuesday night. Three Democrats voted for the resolution. The Republicans opposed it.

The two GOP freeholders had been battling efforts by the Democrats to establish an ethics board that would promulgate and administer a county ethics code. The recommendation for the board and code originated with a blue-ribbon ethics review committee appointed by the freeholders.

Freeholder Robert D. Clifton was the biggest stumbling block, arguing that the ethics board would be too powerful and too costly to run. Freeholder Lillian G. Burry picked up the chant, claiming it would create another level of government that the county can’t afford.

What they did not say is that many Republicans still don’t like to bring up the touchy subject of county ethics because it dredges up memories of the Operation Bid Rig scandal four years ago when more than two dozen Monmouth County and other officials were arrested in an FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office corruption sweep.

That sweep also netted the late longtime former Republican Freeholder Director Harry Larrison Jr. The freeholder board was all Republican at the time and county government was loaded with patronage, cronyism and favoritism.

It was a shameful period in county history. And Monmouth County still bears the scars of those terrible days. The county, as a result of that nightmare, is still referred to statewide as “Hudson County with lawns.”

To prevent another Operation Bid Rig from happening and to establish an ethics agency with teeth, the county appointed a first-rate ethics review committee that carefully examined existing policies, procedures and an employee manual. It concluded: “The existing structure is in need of revision.”

Thus, the freeholder majority was wise to approve the recommendations of the ethics review committee, including the creation of a six-member nonpartisan, independent ethics board that would serve without compensation. Monmouth County residents should be served well by this arrangement.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, ethics, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Operation Bid Rig

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