* Former state Rep. Tom Homer is retiring after a decade as the state legislature’s inspector general. He sat down for an interview with the AP. This excerpt revolves around a 2003 ethics reform law that banned large gifts for legislators among many other things…
Since he took the legislature’s inspector general job in 2004, Homer has fielded 163 formal complaints, referring 11 to federal or state law enforcement authorities. Some of those ended in criminal convictions, although the law doesn’t allow him to talk about specific cases. […]
[The 2003 law] also created the Legislative Ethics Commission, a board of eight Senate and House members, four named by legislative leaders from each party, who must vote to approve the inspector general’s investigations and any decision to publish disciplinary action. A case in which a legislative staff member is suspended for at least three days is automatically published, but there’s no provision for suspending a lawmaker.
If a legislator is fined, it technically should be published, but Homer has been unsuccessful in getting the commission to approve fines against any lawmakers.
Q: As legislators, do you think commission members feel a need to protect their own?
A: “I have a very high regard for each of them. I think sometimes they’re put in an untenable position, the way it’s constituted. They’re there at the appointment of the leader.
“We have the ability to fine, but the ability to censure or reprimand is the sanction that’s missing here. They have that in the Congress and that’s probably the most potent tool that you can have.”
* The Question: Should the Legislative Inspector General be given the legal right to recommend that the Legislative Ethics Commission censure or reprimand state legislators? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.