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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The ethics committee charade

The ethics practiced by too many public officials in this state - or rather the lack of them - is an embarrassment. But the ethics committee that oversees the Legislature, with the grandiose title Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, is even more of an embarrassment, if that's possible.

This panel hadn't met for 17 months until Oct. 23 and then again Monday. But it still can't bring itself to get anything done. In October, it spent four hours debating who should be chairman. The latest hassling is over whether they promised to hold three meetings in November, with two Republicans saying they did and the director of the Office of Legisaltive Services saying they didn't. How incredibly childish. Meanwhile, any investigation of legislator shenanigans, namely Sen. Wayne R. Bryant's no-work job with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, goes undone.

The governor should pressure the legislative leaders, Senate President Richard J. Codey and Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr., to say "enough already.'' It's well past time to fold up this committee and transfer its duties to the State Ethics Commission, which oversees the executive branch. It has a history of probing allegations of wrongdoing and fining, suspending and even removing state officials who stray. The Legislature deserves that kind of scrutiny. Its do-nothing ethics committee proves it.

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