I feel so proud.
In announcing his complete reversal on the need for a Senate ethics panel, Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell put his finger squarely on the source of the problem.
The panel would also give a lawmaker accused of wrongdoing an opportunity to refute allegations made by “journalists or bloggers.” Campbell said lawmakers need a place “where people can go to clear their name if someone makes an accusation.”
Aww, John. I didn’t know you cared.
“Journalists” is an obvious reference to Seven Days, the only Vermont media outlet to cover Campbell’s office featherbedding and his ethically-questionable way of landing a job with the Windsor County State’s Attorney.
And by “bloggers,” well, modesty prevents me.
But really, I’m honored to serve as the grit in Campbell’s oyster. We live in hope that the resulting irritation will produce a pearl of great price — an ethics panel that will take its function seriously.
However, I must point out what seems to be a misapprehension on Campbell’s part regarding ethics panels. Their job is NOT to “refute allegations” or “clear names.” Their job is to ferret out the truth, for good or for ill. I mean, if he wants to stack the panel with cronies and guardians of the status quo, Lord knows he’s got plenty to choose from in the hidebound Senate. But Vermont deserves more than that. Especially with the stink of institutional failure emanating from the Norm McAllister scandal.
By “institutional failure” I mean the fact that one of McAllister’s accusers worked for him at the Statehouse without anyone asking any questions, and the fact that Senate leaders blithely dismissed at least one serious allegation of sexual harassment against McAllister from a fellow lawmaker. If they’d listened to Rachel Weston way back in 2007, they could have saved themselves a whole lot of embarrassment. And perhaps saved McAllister’s accusers from dozens of sexual assaults.
That’s the kind of thing a real ethics panel can do, if it’s not focused on refuting allegations and clearing names.