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posted: 7/15/2011 3:00 AM

Inspector general has eye on ethics

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The Daily Herald's July 8 editorial, "State's ethics math does not compute," asks readers to recall middle-school math and then proposes this word problem: "If 29 state workers are fined for ethics violations over seven years' time a total of $28,350, how much should that process cost taxpayers?"

The math problem was derived from Suburban Tax Watchdog Jake Griffin's July 6 article. He reported that in its seven-year existence, the nine-member Illinois Executive Ethics Commission received more than $2 million in salaries but only fined 29 employees for a total of, well, you know the figure. Judging the effectiveness of the state's ethics process solely on fines levied may oversimplify matters and ignores that:

• The EEC may issue fines only in instances of wrongdoing investigated by Executive Inspectors General involving violations of the Ethics Act, such as restrictions on state employees' acceptance of gifts, political activities or post-state employment.

• The Office of Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor produced 223 investigative reports during the 2011 fiscal year; each was submitted to the EEC.

• Certain OEIG investigative reports resulted in state employee suspensions, terminations or resignations.

• The EEC made public seven OEIG investigations involving violations of the Ethics Act and 22 OEIG investigative reports involving other misconduct.

These and other facts might better round out the word problem. Nevertheless, the question should be at what cost can we accept a less-than-ethical state government? With one recent former governor in federal prison now and another on his way, simple math may not yield the answer.

Ricardo Meza

Executive Inspector General