Does Ocean City NJ Need an Ethics Board?

I need help understanding the debate about the Ocean City Ethics Board. I understand the question: Is it a redundant waste of taxpayer dollars, or a community watchdog to hold elected legislators, administration officials, and city connected businesses accountable? No one disagrees with its purpose. But is it working? Mixed results may be a sign that it is, because if it’s doing its job right, someone will always end up being unhappy.

Councilman John Kemenosh expressed my wish that if the administration “corrected…ethics problems” there would be no need for an Ethics Board. However, Mayor Gillian pointed out that civil service procedures and union rules make it difficult and costly to do what’s right. The fact that we still have employees working for the City who have falsified records demonstrates just how impotent the office of Mayor can be. One can only sympathize because that must be extremely frustrating to a man who has spent his entire career in the private sector. If our Mayor can’t get rid of rotten wood, what chance does a more distant state Finance Board have?

Councilman Keith Hartzell put out a challenge that I hope will be taken on by someone. He advocated for some citizens’ mechanism to investigate wrongdoing by public officials which could then pass the case on to the appropriate enforcement body if there was sufficient evidence to justify doing so. Ocean City has an abundance of smart well-intentioned citizens. Why couldn’t the Chairperson of the Ethics Board and the City Solicitor sit down and craft a solution to present to our elected representatives? All it takes is one of them (and it doesn’t matter which one) to pick up the phone. The plan does not have to be perfect. But it would give us a place to start, and we might end up with something better instead of nothing at all.

Jim Tweed, Ocean City

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