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Indictment raises questions about ethics panel integrity

Question: At what point do ethics and the Mississippi EthicsCommission collide? Answer: When the ethical practices of one ofits members result in the member’s indictment by a grand jury.

The Mississippi Ethics Commission has to be thinking about thatquestion after one of its own – Amkiam Brown of Greenwood – wasrecently indicted by a Hinds County grand jury. The grand juryfound enough evidence to suggest that Brown put his ownself-interest above that of the public after an audit by the stateauditor found $5,700 in questionable acts involving Brown and threedifferent government agencies.

What is interesting here is that a commission – whose charge bythe Legislature is to be the watchdog over state and localgovernment officials in the name of public trust – now finds itselfout of the trust and under the microscope.

The problem is that current Ethic Commission rules do notrequire its members be removed from office should a member’spersonal integrity become a question.

Granted Brown should be considered innocent until proven guilty,but at the same time – as one of the gatekeepers of the publictrust – any question on one member’s integrity reflects on theentire commission.

We would hope that Brown would graciously step down while thecourts settle the indictment against him. Doing so would quicklyresolve any question against the commission as a whole and be asign of good faith on his part.

At the same time, we think it appropriate that the Legislaturelook into tightening the rules on commission members to ensure thepublic trust is maintained in an agency where credibility is itsmost important asset.