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A needed change in county policy

If the state’s administration of its ethics guidelines suffers under a just-granted waiver, the administration of Allen County’s policies appears to benefit from some just-instituted changes.

County commissioners have amended the county ethics ordinance to make it clear that it applies to elected officials. It wasn’t clear last year when a citizen’s complaint was filed against Paul Moss, then a county councilman, and Sheriff Ken Fries over a phone call Moss made to the sheriff after he was pulled over by a sheriff’s officer and refused to take a breath test. The complaint was eventually dropped because Fries was subject to a code of ethics instituted by the Indiana Sheriff’s Association, and it was never clear that the county’s policy applied to Moss, an elected official.

The commissioners’ revision also establishes time frames for an ethics complaint and hearing process and adds two members to the three-member panel charged with enforcing the ethics ordinance. It also defines a quorum and clarifies how the chair will be appointed. The panel will be required to meet within 14 days of a complaint’s filing to avert the perception left in the Moss case – that it wasn’t addressed in a timely fashion.

The changes give the ethics committee the power to suggest punishments for employees or elected officials.

“We’re bringing back a piece that’s a little more refined than the first time around,” said Commissioner Nelson Peters, who proposed the changes. “I don’t know that this will be the final change made.”

Give Peters and the other commissioners credit for recognizing the shortcomings in the original ordinance and making the effort to improve it.

Public trust suffered under the case of Moss and Fries. Strengthening the ordinance is a good step in restoring it.