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     GCN GUEST OPINION

Hall of Shame/Hall of Fame 
for Public Officials
By

Royce Hignight - Special to GCN
Filed March 3, 2005

Once again, Mississippi politicians, led by Republican Senator Charlie Ross (Madison and Rankin Counties), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee along with Republican Senator Ralph H. Doxey (Benton, Marshal, Tippah Counties), have shown their true colors in allowing House Bill 984 sponsored by Democratic Representative Diane Peranich of Delisle to die in Committee.  Peranich’s Bill, which was passed by the House, would have required members of boards and commissions, such as the Harrison County Development Commission (HCDC), that administer public funds to file statements of economic interests with the Mississippi Ethics Commission.

Such statements are already required of most public officials and for good reason.  However, public officials who are on commissions and boards set up under the auspices of a county, municipality, and other political subdivisions are not covered by the existing ethics statutes, even though those boards and commissions expend millions of dollars of public funds.  Such governmental entities are not even routinely audited by the State Auditor and are largely unaccountable to anyone except to themselves.

How could anyone conclude that it is not in the public interest to make these public officials more accountable, especially in a state that is at the bottom in nearly all socio-economic measurements; a state that is at the top of the list in corruption and rife with cronyism and favoritism.  Do they know the difference between good and bad public policy? Do these Senators even care about the public interest and getting this state off the bottom?  If they do, they have a funny way of showing it.

Other Senators who serve on the Judiciary Committee of “Shame” are:

 (From the Coast Delegation)

T.O. Moffatt (Jackson County) Republican;

Thomas E. Robertson (Jackson County) Republican;

Scottie R. Cuevas (Hancock, Harrison Counties) Democrat;

 

 

Kelvin E. Butler (Adams, Amite, Pike,Walthal, Wilkinson Counties) Democrat;

Billy V. Harvey (Covington, Forrest, Jefferson Davis, Lamar and Jefferson Counties Democrat);

Gloria Williamson (Neshoba, Winston, Leake Counties) Democrat;

Dean Kirby (Rankin County) Republican;

Alan Nunnelee (Lee, Pontotoc) Republican;

Hillman Terome Frazier (Hinds) Democrat;

Travis L. Little (Alcorn, Tippah, Tishomingo) Republican;

Jack Gordon (Calhoun, Chickasaw, Grenada, Lee) Democrat;

Walter Michel (Hinds, Madison) Republican;

Richard White (Hinds) Republican.

A detailed letter in regard to the Ethics Legislation was sent  to each of the above, requesting their support of the legislation.  In addition, a copy of the article titled, “Mississippi State Ethics Commission Opposes Openness and Accountability in Government Entities,” was also sent to each of the above.  Absolutely no response was received by the writer to these articles, nor was there any response in the press that was seen by the writer.

The above politicians all deserve a place in the “Hall of Shame,” for their actions or lack of actions in regard to Ms Peranich’s Ethics Legislation which passed the House and they let die in Committee in the Senate.  They also need to be remembered at election time.

When our fore-fathers wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they were smart enough to know that government would have a tendency to fail without oversight.  Therefore, the very first amendment was to guarantee the Freedom of the Press.  This amendment conferred a most significant right on the press to enable the press to inform the public.  This was more than a right; it was a responsibility.  The press miserably failed the public in regard to the Ethics Legislation amendment.

In all the press coverage afforded to the current legislative session by the Sun Herald, has anyone seen anything in regard to Representative Peranich’s legislation that anyone could argue was not in the public interest?  The Sun Herald knew about the legislation because, on February 11, 2005, this writer delivered a copy of the article, “Mississippi State Ethics Commission Opposes Openness and Accountability in Government Entities,” along with the letter from the State Ethics Commission, to the top four people at the Sun Herald with a request that the Sun Herald support the legislation editorially. 

In view of no response to the above, the Sun Herald has earned a spot in the Hall of Shame by failing to act in the public interest in regard to the Ethics Legislation.

Representative Diane Peranich, well known for her tenaciousness in looking out for the public interest, deserves a place in the Hall of Fame for originating the House Bill to amend the Ethics Statute in order to bring some accountability to boards and commissions that severely need more oversight.

From this time forward, public officials, institutions, and others who blatantly disregard the public’s interest and trusts in favor of other interests, or take particularly strong stands in the public’s interest, will be enshrined in the Hall of Shame or Fame as appropriate.  The Hall is strictly non-partisan. If you feel we need to add to this list, send me an Email.


About the Author

Royce Hignight is a long time Coast resident and retired FBI Agent who spent much of his career investigating white collar crime and corruption in the state and area. He currently operates a private investigative and consulting service.

Hignight is among public and private citizens that have been campaigning for reforms in the county's leading economic development agency.

To Contact the Author: mailto:hignight@cableone.net

 

 

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