Legislature Tries Again To Create Ethics Board
SANTA FE ― Monday, State Sen. Daniel A. Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque) pre-filed Senate Bill 72, the Public Accountability Act, which will significantly strengthen ethics enforcement across state and local government.
If passed and signed by the Governor, the legislation would create a venue for the public to bring forward ethical concerns related to the conduct of public officials and the management of public dollars.
Sen. Daniel A. Ivey-Soto/Courtesy photo
Efforts to create an ethics panel, board or commission have been attempted in the Legislature several times over the last ten years, with little success. This legislation appears to be a more comprehensive ethics enforcement reform to be introduced in the state legislature. It provides ethics enforcement of the state executive branch, strengthens existing ethics laws in the judicial and legislative branches, and for the first time extends the same ethics enforcement to local governments throughout the state.
“This bill is aimed at restoring New Mexicans’ faith and confidence in every level and branch of our state’s government,” Ivey-Soto said. “As public servants we are accountable to the people we serve. Simply put, public service is a public trust and this legislation will dramatically improve the ethics process through which we protect that trust.”
The legislation will be co-sponsored in the House of Representatives by incoming State Representative Daymon Ely, an attorney whose legal practice is focused on ensuring that fellow attorneys uphold the proper standards of conduct when representing their clients.
“It’s time for the legislature to make a bold move to provide the accountability and transparency New Mexicans expect from their elected officials and public servants,” Representative-elect Ely said. “This legislation will hold our public officials accountable to the highest standards of ethical conduct.”
The legislation is supported by leading reform groups, including Common Cause New Mexico who awarded Ivey-Soto with their 2015 Best in Government Award.
“Citizens have been demanding a way to increase transparency at all levels of government and this gives them a one-stop shop to file complaints involving public officials across the state,” Common Cause New Mexico Executive Director Viki Harrison said. “This is an important step in rebuilding the public’s trust in both our political system and our elected officials after so many high-profile scandals. We look forward to working with Senator Ivey-Soto on this initiative.”
Key provisions of the legislation include:
· Creates the New Mexico Public Accountability Board to review violations of ethical misconduct, corruption, and abuses made by local government and members of the state executive.
· Makes the New Mexico Public Accountability Board a clearing house where the public can bring forth concerns about potential misconduct by all public officials and have them referred to proper enforcement entity for review.
· Expands the authority of the Judicial Standards Committee to allow for review of conduct of hearing officers and arbitrators.
· Converts the Interim Legislative Ethics Committee into a permanent committee of the Legislature responsible for reviewing violations of ethical misconduct by members of the New Mexico Legislature.
· Requires the Legislative Ethics Committee to issue annual reports of complaints received and action taken on each complaint.
· Opens the legislative ethics process to participation by two public members and requires a webpage on which the public may access information on Legislative ethics, past complaints, and opinions regarding proper