By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The debate over debates has largely consumed the governor’s race for the past week as Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox has aggressively pushed the issue in the press.
The back and forth has produced the general election campaign’s first discussion about actual policy: ethics.
Maddox unveiled a five point ethics plan that include both legislative and executive remedies to stem public corruption. The plans main points are:
- Prohibit people from working in state government who are paid by someone other than the state.
- Mandate that all staff and cabinet member under the governor’s control fully disclose all potential conflicts of interest.
- Disclose all assistance offered by the state for economic development.
- Mandate full compliance with public meeting, open records, and ethics laws.
- Seek and facilitate public comment on significant proposals that would commit state resources.
It didn’t take long for Ivey’s campaign to shoot back, not by disagreeing with Maddox’s proposals, but by pointing out the governor has already implemented them.
The campaign released an infographic highlighting ways in which Ivey’s administration banned, mandated or required the actions in Maddox’s plan and called “out of touch with the state’s ethics requirements.”
In regards to the first point, Ivey issued an executive order last year to stop outside lobbyists from serving in state government roles while being paid by their employer. The practice had become common in former Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration. Additionally, Ivey issued Executive order 714 in April to require “the identity, expenditures, and activities of certain persons who engage in efforts to persuade members of the legislative bodies or members of the Executive Branch to take specific actions…be publicly and regularly disclosed.”
For points number two and four about Governor’s Office ethics, Cabinet officials are required by law file a Statement of Economic Interest disclosing with the Ethics Commission. But Gov. Ivey has directed all staff to file the same disclosures even though the law does not require it, according to Ivey’s legal counsel Bryan Taylor. Taylor said the governor required all her staff and cabinet to undergo ethics training even though it’s not required by law until the beginning of the next quadrennium. Ivey also attended the training.
On point three regarding economic development, last year the stated enacted a law that requires the confidentiality agreement for any economic development project using tax-payer funded incentives to be disclosed publicly two years after it is submitted. Previously, such agreements were never disclosed.
The fifth point on seeking public input on proposals is hard to pin down. All major contracts are subject to a hearing and approval by the Legislature’s Contract Review Committee. Taylor said that “Ivey’s constituent services office and communications office field public comments and questions all day long every day” but said there was no law mandating such a vague requirement.
Some of the actions can be more directly attributed to Ivey than others. Still, Ivey has managed to keep her office office scandal free since inheriting a mess in the wake of Bentley’s scandal-ridden departure.
Maddox appears eager to link Ivey to her predecessor on the issue of ethics while Ivey wants to demonstrate actions she has taken to “right the ship of state.”