in Houston, Texas
Harris County commissioners pass ethics rules after months of wrangling
Wednesday, Jun 24, 2009, 11:18AM CST
By Lee Ann O'Neal
The Harris County Commissioners Court has put in place new ethics rules, according to the Houston Chronicle:
The court unanimously and without discussion passed several measures including online posting of officials’ personal and (campaign) financial disclosure forms, ethics training for all county employees and the voluntary registration of lobbyists.

The Chronicle explains how the ethics proposal evolved:

The measures passed are weaker than those recommended by a task force (County Judge Ed) Emmett himself assembled last year. Emmett appointed the panel to assess the county’s ethics rules after the indictment of a former county department head, Mike Surface, and his business partner, Andrew Schatte. Their indictment followed concerns about Commissioner Jerry Eversole’s questionable campaign spending and a history of vague disclosures.

Emmett’s panel recommended the county create a board to investigate ethics complaints, require lobbyists to register. But enacting such reforms would have required approval from the state Legislature. Emmett instead decided to focus on what could be accomplished locally.

The story also says the county attorney may have "concerns about the online posting of financial disclosure forms," according to Emmett.

We're curious about those concerns.

Texas Watchdog has lately been posting financial disclosure forms for state and local officials. We're strongly in favor of measures that put public records online -- where many people may access them from home and after-hours -- instead of keeping them locked up in the dusty filing cabinets of government agencies.

We've left a message for County Attorney Vince Ryan this morning, and we'll update the blog when we hear back from his office.

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