The Flower Mound Town Council has authorized an investigation into ethics violations by… wait for it… all members of the Council. Therefore, the Town Manager has hired an “outside entity to look into possible violations of the code of ethics and/or open government laws.”
To effectuate such inquiry the town has authorized up to $15,000 to be paid to the firm that handles this bizarre request. Yes, I know it all started with the accusation that a councilman spoke publicly about an issue that was covered during executive session, in violation of the rules.
As I understand it, the councilman admitted the world-shaking act, which, in terms of seriousness, rivals a charge of jaywalking. Hence, the only question was; is there any punitive measure to handle the violation? Inasmuch as the Mayor has offered the fact that many council members do this, often unconsciously, due to the innocuous nature of the subject matter revealed, it seems to me that this is much ado about nothing.
Nevertheless, it seems that this investigation has morphed into an inquisition that includes everyone with a pulse. One wonders how deep will the “entities” have to probe in order to unearth any possible breaches of protocol by errant elected officials.
Will the search be limited to social media, or, will it delve into the murky world of email messages on public and private servers? For example, should we the people be concerned if a councilman every used profanity in an email message, or, if he ever tweeted something uncomplimentary toward someone he dislikes? Will friends of councilmen be questioned to determine if salacious comments were ever made about constituents during social encounters? What criteria will be used to conclude that ethical conduct was not adhered to? I’m reminded of the phrase “slippery slope” when I observe this perilous imbroglio.
Generally, when a public official is accused of an ethical lapse it’s because they committed an act that tends to reward them with monetary or other valuable considerations. I think it’s fair to say that’s not the case here. So, what’s this about, and why should it cost taxpayers 15 grand for an exercise in futility? Don’t we have any serious issues to deal with? Moreover, why can’t this be dealt with internally?
Frankly, I could have handled this inquiry for free and it would take about 15 minutes. “Councilman, did you speak publicly about an issue discussed during executive session?” If he answers “Yes” I advise him not to repeat the infraction in the future. Perhaps I add that a second violation will result in a public reprimand. Case closed! Now, let’s talk about all the positives this town has to offer when it’s not embroiled in bitter political folderol.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.