Tougher ethics rules recommended

July 22, 2008 5:27:43 PM PDT
Will 13 Undercover investigations lead to tougher ethics rules for county officials? Today, there's a start. A panel created by the county judge recommends more disclosure and more transparency. Ethics is taking center stage, but will the calls for tighter disclosure and more transparency actually translate into action, since the commissioners who have to approve tough new rules have been the most frequent targets of criticism?

Last July, 13 Undercover was in the midst of surveillance of County Commissioner Jerry Eversole, documenting his questionable work habits and his apparent misuse of campaign funds.

In January, we documented who got the winning hand in $70 million in county real estate deals. A former county official was one of the big winners and the players had close ties to members of commissioners' court.

We learned at least two county officials had design work done on their personal homes by the founder of an architecture firm with lots of county contracts.

"Ethics, or lack thereof, has reared its ugly head on a seemingly regular basis," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

Today a panel who studied the counties ethics recommended more transparency, in a county with some of the weakest disclosure laws anywhere.

Ethics panel member James Crownover explained, "If we look at all the other jurisdictions that we looked at, if we consider those, virtually every one of them had more disclosure than Harris County."

You can see the recommendations for yourself. Of course, they have to first be approved by county commissioners, where many of the ethical questions have surfaced in the first place.

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