Panel Discussion: Vermont Ethics

Vote for Vermont
Guests: Secretary of State Jim Condos, Author and Commentator Bill Schubart, and VPIRG Gov. Reform Associate Megan Noonan
Topic: Vermont Ethics

 

Pat McDonald, a co-producer and co-host of Vote For Vermont along with Ben Kinsley, Executive Director of Campaign for Vermont Prosperity, hosted a show on Vermont Ethics.  Our guests were the Hon. Jim Condos, Secretary of State; Bill Schubart, Vermont author and commentator; and Megan Noonan, Gov. Reform Assoc., VPIRG. 

There has been an effort for several years for Vermont’s legislature to implement ethics reform legislation.  Vermont is one of only three states that does not have an ethics laws holding our public officials accountable.  Our guests feel that momentum has been building and this may be there year.  Surveys show that Vermonters want an ethics policy in place.  Such a policy must include conflicts of interest, elimination of “pay for play”, financial disclosures, and the creation of an ethics panel.

Our guests agreed that the implementation of an ethics policy would go a long way to reestablishing trust and an ethics panel would provide a place for people to go who have questions or want to discuss situations they are concerned about.  It was felt that legislation proposed this year just doesn’t go far enough and is in danger of being watered down even further.  Vermonters deserve a strong ethics policy.  

There is tri-partisan support for this issue in both the House and the Senate, but still some question the need for it.  There are three bills in play this year in the Legislature:  S.9, Sen. Anthony Pollina (P); H.133, Rep. Heidi Scheurmann (R); and H.121 Rep. Robin Chestnut-Tangerman.   Funding for an ethics panel and enforcement would cost approximately $300,000 and each guest felt that was money well spent.

An ethics policy is not only beneficial and essential for Vermont’s legislature, it is also important at the municipal level.  Vermont is a small state and conflicts are bound to happen. Several stories were discussed that occurred on the municipal level which could easily be corrected through the implementation of an ethics policy.  As with everything, the vast majority of individuals in the legislature and municipalities are honest, hard-working people – but there are those few who undermine the institutions that we put our trust in.

Vermonters feel that they have unparalleled access to members of the legislature and municipal employees and elected officials.  But access doesn’t mean you know their financial interests or potential conflicts.  Only an effective ethics policy sheds light on those issues. 

We have all heard of pay-for-play – where donors support a candidate only to be handed a lucrative contract or favor when the candidate is elected.  An ethics policy would provide for a way to bring these situations to the attention of the ethics panel. 

We need to encourage our legislators and perhaps our municipalities to pass an ethics policy and form an ethics panel.  While there are probably few who would be impacted, it makes a critical step towards rebuilding public confidence in our democratic institutions.

The comments reflected in this article are opinions stated by our guests.  Any rebuttals are welcome and can be expressed on the websites and facebook pages of VFV and CFV. If you would like to see the show please go to vote802.com for a complete listing of Vote for Vermont shows or our YouTube channel for the shows done in partnership with Campaign for Vermont Prosperity.

 

 

 

Pat McDonald

Ben Kinsley

Co-Producers and Hosts of

Vote for Vermont, VFV, LLC

 

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