Secretary of State John Merrill Challenges State Ethics Commission

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Secretary of State John Merrill

Two days ago our Secretary of State John Merrill, from neighboring Tuscaloosa, delivered a guest editorial to the Alabama Political Reporter challenging the State Ethics Commission. Good for him. Take a look at his editorial and you will see why he is frustrated when he tries to do his job as Secretary of State to refer violators of campaign finance laws that our legislature passed. The law requires that violations are to be reported and referred to the State Ethics Commission instead of directly to the Attorney General. Then the State Ethics Commission finds a reason to delay, fail to proceed, or pass the buck.

The problem is not limited to the State Ethics Commission. The problem begins when the legislature passes laws that require referrals to the Ethics Commission to determine if the law has been violated in the first place. That is where political pressure is often brought to bear in the process and the system remains broken when political pressure interferes with the administration of justice.

State Auditor Jim Ziegler

John Merrill is not the only person rambling about the loopholes in laws recently. Our State Auditor, Jim Zeigler, is frustrated with the Open Records Law according to an article in Alabama Today. So frustrated in fact that he is ready to champion updates to the Open Records Act according to more recent articles. He has been unable to get records he demanded from the Alabama Department of Transportation.

“This has been frustrating. To have a public records law that lacks any deadline is unworkable and unacceptable,” Zeigler told Alabama Today. “I am considering taking the lead for a bill in the March 2019 regular legislative session that would add a deadline for providing public records and specific remedies when agencies do not comply.”
“If I as an elected state official cannot obtain public records, imagine the normal citizen,” Zeigler added.
Alabama State Capitol

 

Just my opinion, but it could be that our State Legislature needs to do a little better job writing their bills and laws in the first place. Then Mr. Merrill and Mr. Zeigler wouldn’t be so frustrated trying to do the job voters elected them to do.

The Opinions Expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of The Bibb Voice. Your comments are welcomed. 

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