Leader Blues

Saturday, November 25, 2006

EDITORIALS>>Strengthen ethics law

Did the big developers out west corrupt the central Arkansas water supply and we missed it? How else to account for still another grabby public official and another agency with lax ethical impulses? It seems epidemic.

Now it is the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, the quasi-government and tax-supported arm of the capital city that promotes tourism and convention business. When Barry Travis, the estimable director for some years, retired in February, the bureau gave him a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu, which cost $25,500.

It was more complicated but only slightly more defensible than that. First, the car was bought without the benefit of bids before he retired. Travis traded in his old government-supplied car for a $1,500 credit, and title to the new car was transferred to him.

Before he retired and took possession of the new car, the city made $9,000 in payments on it. The balance owed, $15,783, was paid off by private donors, which included outfits that had done business with his agency.

Anyone see anything wrong with that? Last week, after it all came to light, Travis thought the $1,500 credit did not quite look right so he wrote the city a check for that sum. The city manager had already detected a problem and sent word that it should be repaid.

But that was only the most patent lapse. The donations from appreciative benefactors of city business? No one thought anything about it, just as Gov. Huckabee never saw problems with big gifts from companies that got state government business or from people whom he favored with appointments to boards and commissions or think twice about setting up a wedding gift registry at two retailers so that friends could reward him and his wife for their faithful service by accessorizing their new private home.

Travis by all accounts was a good manager. But donít we expect that of every employee, down to the lowest file clerk?
Once more: We need a strong ethics law in Arkansas.