The Edmond Sun

Local News

February 18, 2013

New Ethics Commission director eyes reforms

EDMOND — Rules made by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission need to be examined for internal inconsistancies, said Lee Slater, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Slater shared his personal views recently with members of the Oklahoma Press Association.

“You have rules that are out-of-date, rules that are fairly complicated and difficult to understand on their own — rules that on their face can’t be really interpreted without knowing how the commission has applied them historically,” said Slater, who replaced retired executive director Marilyn Hughes.

“My personal view is rules need to be written in crystal clear simple language,” Slater said.

The Ethics Commission needs to examine its constitutional role with the state Legislature and judiciary, Slater said. The commission has no authority over the internal proceedings of either the Legislature or judiciary, Slater said. Some former directors of the Ethics Commission have considered it to be a fourth branch of state government, Slater said.

“I don’t think that’s right,” he said. “I think it’s an executive agency.”

 Only one lawsuit has been filed by the Ethics Commission since its inception, Slater said. The case was against former Gov. Frank Keating and was dropped by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

“The Ethics Commission has a Rule that prohibits the use of public property for a partisan political fundraiser,” the commission stated in its report. “The governor has appeared at fundraisers for candidates using transportation provided by the Department of Public Safety (Department or DPS).”

The court ruled the Ethics Commission does not have the power to regulate the governor’s security, according to court documents.

The Ethics Commission was created by a vote of the people in 1990 with constitutional responsibility to promulgate rules of conduct for campaigns for state office and state questions, Slater said. Ethical standards for state officers and employees are written by the commission, he added.

Cost of living adjustments for federal candidates increase with the cost of living, Slater said.

“There is a $5,000 campaign limit for anybody running for state office,” Slater said. “That’s been the limit since 1974. Would you like to be able to by the supplies for the prices paid in 1974? I would, but I think that’s something that needs to be examined.”

 A single person is limited to a $5,000 contribution to a statewide race. So Slater said he is not sure if it is constitutional that married couples cannot give more than $5,000 collectively to a state candidate.

“There is a threshold of $50 for identifying persons who contributed to candidates or political action committees for state offices,” Slater said. Federal candidates have a $200 threshold for identifying individuals making such a contribution, he said.

Lobbyists are restricted to a $100 contribution to state candidates but were once allowed to give $300 to a campaign. Restricting a lobbyist’s contribution to one-third of what it was a few years ago does not keep pace with inflation, Slater said.

Making rules too tight also runs the risk of reducing voluntary compliance, he said. Reasonable rules would enhance voluntary compliance, Slater said. Ethics Commission rules treat every state employee the same as the executive branch of state government. This practice makes little sense, given the difference in their policy making capacities, he said. Some prohibition is necessary for people who would abuse the law.

“My personal preference is in favor of transparency — openness over prohibition,” Slater said. “That means that I think we ought to emphasize disclosure by candidates, by lobbyists, by those who are seeking to or are in fact affecting state policy.”

Slater said his personal experience is that the Ethics Commission website is the least user-friendly site he has used.

“I want to fix that,” he said.

The state’s electronic filing system is also flawed, he said, a former part-owner of a company that engaged in campaign finance reporting.

“As we tried to report for state candidates, those flaws became obvious,” Slater said. “Sometimes the tabulation would not occur consistently.”

The total sum of contributions from certain candidates would at times result in the wrong tabulations with either too much or too little money reported, Slater said.

“Some of you are aware of allegations last summer that some PAC had made contributions in excess of $5,000 to several candidates for state office,” Slater said.

“The reason for that was that the system at one point wouldn’t let you enter more than a $5,000 contribution from a PAC. Something happened to that system and it didn’t alert people any longer.”

State Sen. Clark Jolley had two ethics complaints filed against his campaign during his successful re-election effort last year against opponent Paul Blair.

Former Ethics Commission Executive Director Marilyn Hughes told The Edmond Sun in June that there is no discrepancy in the Jolley campaign’s report of transferring money to the 2012 account.

“The reporting system is flawed in my view in that all the data resides on the state’s system,” Slater said.

A problem occurred recently when state representatives had access to files before the commission had reviewed a case to confirm accuracy, Slater said. The Federal Election Commission uses a better system in which it provides software for candidates or PACs to download, he said.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Oak Tree Official offers glowing update on Senior Open

    An official who has been in charge of tournaments since 2001 said the 2014 U.S. Senior Open is probably the best city event partnership he has seen.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Edmond soldier settles in housing benefits case

    U.S. Attorney Sanford C. Coats said Thursday a U.S. Army reserve soldier from Edmond has agreed to pay the government $20,000 to settle civil claims related to obtaining fraudulent housing benefits.

    April 17, 2014

  • Stevenson 1 Oklahoman returns home focused on pro-gay agenda

    Troy Stevenson remembers the day when football players discovered him and his boyfriend holding hands behind an Edmond high school. After they had been chased off school property, Stevenson, called to check on his boyfriend.
    “He was in hysterics,” Stevenson said. “… Like me, I thought he was scared. Did people see us? What would people think?”

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lawn Experts’ tips can help your lawn bounce back

    Chances are your lawn is looking a bit bedraggled after this rough winter.
    That’s not surprising. Between brutally cold temperatures and drying winds, turf took a beating this year.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gracelawn grows larger

    The Edmond City Council voted 5-0 in favor of the city purchasing 20.5 acres of land immediately to the north of Gracelawn Cemetery. Purchasing the property is needed for future expansion of the cemetery, Mayor Charles Lamb, said.
    Gracelawn Cemetery is owned and operated by the city and is located on the northwest corner of Danforth and Boulevard.

    April 17, 2014

  • Warmth needed to grow tomatoes

    The time for those growing tomatoes in their garden is when the soil temperature is above 60°F and fear of frost has past. We are generally safe from frosts after April 5.  However, frosts have occurred as late as May 1 in the Oklahoma City area. If you planted your tomatoes on or before April 5 last year you would have covered them several times as there were several late frosts. If you plant early, be ready to cover your plants during nighttime frosts.

    April 17, 2014

  • Debate Senate hopefuls meet in first debate

     Accountability to the American people and the $17.5 trillion debt continues to be a major issue in the race for U.S. Senate office being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.
    The Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee hosted a debate Wednesday for three of the seven Republicans running for the U.S. Senate seat that is being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Oklahoma City FC invites fans to design club scarf

    Oklahoma’s top-tier soccer club, Oklahoma City FC, invites soccer fanatics across Oklahoma to be a part of its future by designing its scarf.
    Scarves are a tradition among soccer clubs and are typically a team’s most recognizable accessory. Scarves are a matter of pride for hard-core supporters and feature team colors, logo and inspiring slogans. Scarves are a part of a team’s identity.

    April 16, 2014

  • MS_injection well.jpg Agency clarifies earthquake-related misinformation

    A state agency says misinformation related to the debate about the cause of more earthquakes across Central Oklahoma includes oil well types, well numbers and injection pressure.
    The Prague sequence of 2011 along the Wilzetta Fault zone included a significant foreshock, a main shock of magnitude 5.7 and numerous aftershocks. It has been suggested that this sequence represents tremors triggered by fluid injection.
    More recently, earthquakes have been recorded in the vicinity of Jones, Arcadia Lake, Edmond, Guthrie, Langston and Crescent. Regulators and scientists are working together to better understand what’s causing all the shaking.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sheriff seeks items for agency history project

    If you have historic pictures or artifacts related to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, the agency is asking the public to share them.
    “The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is working on a history project. If you, your family, friends or acquaintances have any old photos or artifacts related to the OCSO we would love to have them or a digital copy,” said Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Video
Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid"
Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results