At long last, an ethics code

Published 12:02 am Thursday, November 17, 2011

It has been nearly a year since the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners adopted a superficial, nine-word ethics code that sounded more like a slogan: “The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners supports ethical behavior.”

By a 4-3 vote, that was the stand commissioners took Dec. 6, 2010, when required by state law to adopt an ethics code by the end of 2010.

Fearing a more stringent policy that would undoubtedly culminate with jack-booted enforcers at the door, a majority of the commissioners rejected a proposal that would require commissioners to obey all laws and uphold the integrity of their offices.

That all changed this week when commissioners, by a similar 4-3 vote, accepted a new policy based on a draft proposal from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Government.

Board Chairman Jerry Langley joined Commissioners Robert Cayton, Al Klemm and Jay McRoy in approving the four-page policy, which states, among other things, that each commissioner should “obey the law, uphold the integrity and independence of his or her office, avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his or her activities, perform the duties of office diligently and refrain from political activity inappropriate to his or her office.”

Commissioners Ed Booth, Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson rejected it.

Richardson, who opposed a stronger policy in 2010 because he felt it was a potential trap for elected officials, favored a more stringent code this time around.

Regardless of the means, the end result is that commissioners are now obligated to a specific code of behavior as opposed to mere “suggestions.”

And despite the delay, we applaud them for doing the right thing.