Amid his election campaign and a wave of ethics controversies in county government, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett christened an ethics task force Wednesday with the aim of placing new restrictions on officials' on-the-job behavior and relationships with business friends.
"It's clear we need some improvements," Emmett said, "and it's a shame that the work of 16,000 county employees could be tainted by scandals involving a few."
After studying government ethics guidelines across the nation, the task force will report to Emmett in three months on rules changes that can be adopted by the county or would have to be approved first by state lawmakers. Then the county judge will try to get backing for the changes from the four county commissioners.
"I'm surprised Ed Emmett failed to follow through on this promise," Mincberg said in a statement. "He's simply dropped the ball. We need an independent Board of Ethics that is both free of politics and gets the job done."
Emmett did not specifically remember setting a 90-day deadline, but he acknowledged he may have said that at the press conference. Still, he did not sound concerned about the delay.
"I have purposely set up the task force to go do their work without interference from me or any other politician," he said.
Emmett spokesman Joe Stinebaker said the panel is working on a broad outline of changes they'd like to see, such as what should be disclosed, who they can require to disclose it and who they actually want to require to disclose it. The recommendations should be ready by the end of the summer, he said.
On February 13th, Ed Emmett publicly announced the creation of an ethics task force. The task force, according to Emmett, was to provide a report within three months. However, today marks the end of those three months and a report has not been produced, bringing into question Emmett's dedication to cleaning up corruption at the county.Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 15, 2008 to Election 2008
"After all that has happened in Harris County - the corruption and pay-to-play deals, it is clear we need a County Judge who is going to act," said David Mincberg. "I'm surprised Ed Emmett failed to follow through on this promise. He's simply dropped the ball. We need an independent Board of Ethics that is both free of politics and gets the job done."
Since February 13th, Harris County has been rocked by scandal after scandal, whether it's improper real estate deals by former county officials, surveillance of its citizens or wasteful spending. The county leadership response has been to not comment and sweep it under the rug.
"Harris County taxpayers deserve a County Judge who provides leadership and does what he says he's going to do," Mincberg stated. "As a successful businessman, not a career politician, I know how to run things honestly and efficiently. I have created jobs, opportunity, growth, and success. I'll bring that same hands-on approach to Harris County government."