Category : General

FOUR LEGISLATIVELY APPOINTED COMMISSIONERS TO CHOOSE FINAL TWO!

Following the final appointments by legislative leaders and the governor, the four legislatively-appointed commissioners are looking to fill the final two commission spots.  (Information about how to apply electronically or by mail can be found here.)

The five commissioners to date:

Retired Judge William F. Lang, (D), Commission Chair, appointed by the governor

Former NM Governor Garrey Carruthers, (R), appointed by NM  State Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle

Judy Villanueva, (R), appointed by NM State House Minority Leader James Townsend

Stuart Bluestone, (D), appointed by NM State House Speaker Brian Egolf

Frances Williams, (D), appointed by NM State Senate President Mary Kay Papen

Three democrats and two republicans have been appointed. By law, no more than three members of the commission may be members of the same political party.

Here is how the four legislatively-appointed commissioners described the necessary qualifications for the sought-after commissioners in their recent op-ed:

“To qualify for appointment to the commission, a person must be a qualified voter in New Mexico; not have changed party registration in the last five years; and not have been, within the past two years: a public official or employee of the state executive or legislative branch or have been appointed to a state executive or legislative branch public agency; a candidate for a state executive or legislative office; a lobbyist as defined in state law; a government contractor or have submitted a competitive sealed bid with a state executive or legislative branch public agency; or an officer in a state or national political party.”

If you meet the qualifications and have interest, please apply!

 

LESA RAE WATERER’S FIRST PLACE ETHICS ESSAY

What Does Being Ethical Mean To Me? 

Across the world, millions of people suffer injustices caused by unethical practices every day. They are treated poorly, tricked into unfair contracts, robbed of their humanity, blackmailed into submission, and hurt in countless other ways as those in power institute practices that take advantage of the weak and vulnerable. Such practices degrade society and the human race as a whole. In order to counter that degradation, it is necessary to fully understand what it is to “be ethical.”

First and foremost, ethicality involves treating others with respect. This includes acknowledging their humanity and treating them as equals. To do this, we must constantly be mindful how our behavior will impact those around us, even during activities as everyday as walking down the street or driving to work. It can be all too easy to allow our emotions, such as road rage, to take control, but in order to be truly ethical we need to fully accept that other people’s lives and opinions matter. We must let go of the erroneous belief that we are any more important than the rest of mankind. Not only does this apply to those immediately at hand, but also to those who, though removed from sight, will be just as affected by one’s actions. Privileged members of a society in particular must consider how their policies will affect the poor, homeless, and otherwise disadvantaged members of the population.

If we truly desire to be ethical, then we cannot stand by and do nothing once aware of unethical practices. We must rise up and speak out against them. British statesman Edmund Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing,” and this is especially true when it comes to ethicality. People willing to do whatever it takes to obtain power, earn a profit, or otherwise further their own selfish interests will always be present in society. It is the same with people who mean well, yet whose efforts unintentionally cause harm. If no one steps in to stop unethical practices enacted by either source, those practices will continue to be used until they become widely accepted. This is why ethical people cannot afford to stand by and watch. If they were to do so, they would allow the very ethicality they claim to represent to dwindle into insignificance.

Interwoven with being morally upstanding is integrity, the quality of sticking to one’s moral code in every circumstance. Being ethical means nothing if one does not choose to adhere to and advocate it no matter how inconvenient, socially unacceptable, or incredibly difficult it may be to do so, including when no one is watching. The instant one sets aside their ethicality for even a moment, that ethicality loses much of its strength. The temptation to give in, to follow in one’s own footsteps down the slippery slope of questionable choices, grows each time this is done and, before long, all ethicality is lost. This is what happened to Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist famous for his use of free dinners, job offers, football game tickets, and other extravagant gifts to corrupt and win the votes of congress members. He may have been moral at first, using only legal and ethical means to influence legislation, but a lack of integrity led to the loss of his ethicality.

Just as integrity is essential to being ethical, so is truthfulness. In order to achieve-and retain-our ethicality, we need to be completely honest with ourselves about our motives, constantly mindful of our actions, and always brave enough to face our fallacies. This is where Abramoff’s most glaring failure laid. Not only did he use unethical means of persuasion, but he convinced himself that such methods were completely moral. Self-deception led to the belief that he was the epitome of morality among lobbyists. Had he confronted the truth, he would have been able to adjust his path and avoid further use of unethical practices, not to mention prison time, loss of face, and other grave consequences.

To be ethical is to be considerate of others, morally upstanding, and completely nondeceptive. By fully understanding each aspect of ethicality, we can cut through the overshadowing haze of rationalization and work together to better ourselves, each other, and society.

Lesa Rae Waterer, Class of 2019, Volcano Vista High School, Albuquerque, NM

 

NMEW’s Inaugural Ethics Essay Contest Winners Announced!

On July 15th, NMEW held what will become an annual event, Ethics in New Mexico: Where We’ve Been, Where We Are, Where We’re Going, featuring panelists Stuart Bluestone, newly-appointed NM Ethics Commission member and former Chief Deputy NM Attorney General, former NM State Senator and award-winning author Dede Feldman, and former Chief Justice of the NM Supreme Court and NMEW Board Chair, Richard Bosson. (You can read what the ABQ Journal reported about the event and discussion here.)

Following the panel discussion and audience Q&A, NMEW was pleased to announce the winners of its inaugural student essay contest, which asked students to address, “What does being ethical mean to me?”

The following winners were announced:

  • First Place: Lesa Rae Waterer, Class of 2019, Volcano Vista High School, Albuquerque
  • Second Place: Taylor Rogers, Cloudcroft High School, Cloudcroft
  • Third Place: Tina Memarian, La Cueva High School, Albuquerque
  • Honorable Mention: Brooke Blankenship, Volcano Vista High School, Albuquerque
  • Honorable Mention: Max Cassady, St. Pius X High School, Albuquerque

Congratulations to the winners and success in your future endeavors!

(You can read Lesa’s winning essay here on our website.)

 

TAYLOR ROGERS’ SECOND PLACE ETHICS ESSAY

What Does it Mean to be Ethical

Within our world of skeptical and moral questions, we ask amongst ourselves what is right and wrong in the play of a society that feeds on bad decisions. As a whole, the questioning of moral has become so bent, bad choices are used advantageously through politics, media, and social justice. What does this mean for the individual that serves a part of any society? Whos to say that a general ethical process is moral or immoral? General truths serve as a guide but if everyone agrees on an immoral process, then what does it mean to be ethical?

As an individual who lives and plays the roles of society, they must sustain their basic human needs regardless of the circumstances as well as function in society such as working for currency to pay for the basic human needs and pleasures, abiding by the law, and contributing to the system by paying taxes or volunteering in a community. But what if the job one work at, works for a man using this person’s skills to harm others, and the taxes one pays go to upper class, and the volunteer service someone has done is against other people’s morals like building a satanic temple of worship. You can’t necessarily quit your job because, how will you pay for your basic human needs. You can not quit paying taxes because it is against the law, and the satanic temple you built is not wrong to you because of your subjective upbringing. Ethics are subjective to everyone. A child could be raised to believe stealing in any means necessary is completely moral. We know that’s wrong but to this child, it is not. This applies to a society where everyone pays a small portion to benefit a person of higher power and continuing the suffrage of everyone else. The rest of society does not necessarily disagree with the awful things are being done in the hands of powerful people to whom we work for, because the rest of society has to sustain life somehow, but at the cost of conformity to the system because the system works to sustain this. I suppose it would be ethical for the individual in this scenario, to simply comply and live to help others in need. As for the unethical people in charge however, they have a say in how the rest of the individuals will work to benefit them. Would it be wrong then for the individual to challenge the hands of power? I suppose it’s dependent on how everyone else feels about your challenge against the corrupt system of which everyone lives in.

If being ethical means to be fair, moral, and consistent with the struggles of good and bad in order to make the righteous pathway in life, how can this be applicable in a society where these mindsets are bent because everyone agrees on things that are toxic and vile. With ethics, we balance the pros and cons of decisions in order to make the righteous choose. Variables create the pros and cons and the decisions are biased based on the balance of what appears to be good and bad. If I lived in society as I described, I know my actions in order to function within that society would be immoral and because of my upbringing, I would work to form a new system that complies with everyone’s needs even if it was against the law to do so because it is wrong to the people. Now in order for my new system to work, others have to agree and as a whole population comes to agree on the fairest, just, and moral system, there is still the question of what is truly right and wrong. Being ethical is not only fair but is also having the ability to challenge right and wrong not only for one’s self but for everyone. Being ethical means to be able to discuss these terms because everyone holds a bias of what right and wrong and if everyone finds a way to benefit themselves and everyone else at the time, an ethical perfection is achieved.

As far as being ethical in means that is applicable to this very moment, I would listen to what others have to say in order to help them in a fair manner. Whether or not they pay you back for what you have done does not matter to someone who lives ethically because they know it is the right thing to do regardless. So even in a broken and corrupt society, the moral question is a guide to live in what perhaps is enlightenment but with that being said, would it be ethical to somehow share ethical living with everyone? I suppose that decision is not quite agreed upon.

TINA MEMARIAN’S THIRD PLACE ESSAY

What does being ethical mean to you?

According to Merriam Webster the word ethical comes from ethics and means a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values. This definition can describe anything that happens in society. When people make decisions, the actions that come in to play are directed by ethics. Many respond that the term ethical means doing what is right, however, what people consider right is different from everyone. Doing what is right can be based off emotions and intuition, however, it can sometimes be misleading. In society people listen to their conscience and believe in the concept of ethics when making a decision. People should not lie or cheat but should always be truthful and genuine in their actions. The term not only means doing what is right, but doing what is right in terms of morality, justice, and duties. When deciding to do what is ethical, it should be done by deciding on doing the right thing not only for yourself but for those around you. 

Ethics is introduced to people from the very beginning in school and in the form of books. In stories, the moral of the book is taught to teach people a lesson. A common topic regards being ethical. To kids, ethical means being honest and not deceiving someone else. Ethics helps people make decisions and is a crucial way for people to do what is right. It was shown through picture books and taught kids to be kind. It helped kids make friends .with one another and always be sympathetic. As people grew up, the meaning of being ethical has been modified by peoples thoughts. 

In the book Fahrenheit 451, author Ray Bradbury takes his readers through an uphill battle of ethics. The main character has a battle between himself and authorities. He is constantly wavering over doing what he believes he needed to do and listening to the law. Books were illegal in society, but the main character believed they were important, and he decided to fight for them. To him, ethics came to play when deciding what actions to take. He did not want to fight authority, but he wanted to read books. As the end he came to his own terms and did what he thought was right. Ethics came to play when he wanted to expose the truth and help the people. To him he thought he was doing something right, but in the end was it right for just him or the people? 

In the television series Smallville, a young boy Clark Kent risks his life to save everyone around him. He gains super hero abilities as a young boy and only uses them for good. He had multiple chances to use his powers for personal gain, however, he knew the difference between right and wrong. He could have gotten ahead in any situation, but he decided on going the ethical way. When he played football, he did not use super speed to become the star quart back, instead he worked hard and earned his way to become a good player. Throughout the series, he sacrificed himself multiple times. To him, being ethical was using his powers to save everyone: was that ethical? 

The concept of ethics comes into play when people do what is right for the common good of the people. Everyone has their own definition of doing what is right, but ethical actions become clear with selfless acts of humility and truth. I have seen countless examples of what being ethical means. I have seen it through people, film, and books, and they have all helped me form a definition of my own. Being ethical to me means committing moral principles which are founded on the idea of doing good for individuals and a community: to treat everything with civility.

First Two Ethics Commission Commissioners Are Named

The first two commissioners to the fledgling ethics commission have been named: Santa Fe Attorney Stuart Bluestone; and Frances Williams of Las Cruces. (The law enabling the commission goes into effect July 1, 2019.)

Bluestone, appointed by House Speaker Brian Egolf, is a former Chief Deputy Attorney General and Chief Counsel to then-Attorney General and now-Senator Tom Udall.  Williams, appointed by Senate Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, was an equal opportunity manager at White Sands Missile Range, with further experience as the chairperson for the Las Cruces Review Board for Grievances and Discrimination Complaints.

The 72 -year old Bluestone and the 90-year old Williams were interviewed by the press upon appointment.  Bluestone, who advocated for a transparent commission alongside NMEW staff and board, hopes that the commission is fair and balanced and helps to educate people. “It’s really important to help show the public that the leadership in this state cares about ethics issues and has a one-stop shop available for people to ask questions and get guidance,” he said in an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Williams, in contrast, has publicly stated that much of what are now public commission proceedings under the new laws should be private. “Until it’s proven, it should not be a matter of public issue,” she said in an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican. “… We’re messing with peoples’ lives.”

NMEW and fellow advocacy groups, alongside legislators, advocated for a fair amount of transparency in the commission’s proceedings, to provide maximum public trust in the process. (In fact, NMEW advocated for transparency from the filing of a complaint.) Rest assured that future attempts to dilute the current level of transparency will be met with a staunch defense of the current law, on behalf of the public.

First members named to New Mexico ethics commission, Santa Fe New Mexican

White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame, Frances Williams

THE ENTRIES ARE IN!

The entries for NMEW’s inaugural ethics essay contest are in!  Many thanks to the students who took the time to explore the topic, “What does being ethical mean to you?”

We’ll be announcing our winners at an upcoming event…details to follow.

We can’t wait to announce our lucky winners!

The State Ethics Commission Act is now on the governor’s desk awaiting her signature!

When, on the last day of the legislative session, the New Mexico State Senate concurred with the House Amendments to SB 668, the State Ethics Commission Act, the legislature met the demand of more than 75% of New Mexico’s voters who approved the constitutional amendment creating the State Ethics Commission last November. New Mexico voters expected results, and they got them!

During the fall and summer of 2018, New Mexico Ethics Watch (NMEW) participated in the legislature’s Ethics Commission Working Group, along with fellow advocacy groups Common Cause, New Mexico First, the League of Women Voters and the NM Foundation for Open Government, the business community and interested citizens.  Chaired by former State Representative Jim Dines and State Senator Linda Lopez, the working group discussions led to a draft bill, which became, in many respects, the model for the State Ethics Commission Act first introduced during this past session by State Representative Daymon Ely as HB 4.

Working with both determination and grace, and gaining bipartisan support in the House, Rep. Ely’s moved his bill through two House committees and the full House, before it moved to the Senate Rules Committee (SRC).  When a voting deadlock rendered HB 4 and Senator Lopez’s competing SB 619 substitute stuck in the SRC, State Senator Mimi Stewart, through use of a dummy bill, moved SB 668 through the Senate Education Committee as a substitute bill and into the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it was amended before moving to the Senate floor.  On the Senate floor, SB 668 was amended seven additional times, before it passed unanimously in the Senate, 40-0, and moved to the House Judiciary Committee.

In the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Ely, again with bipartisan support, and the chief assistance of Rep. Greg Nibert, amended SB 668 to more closely resemble the commission structure outlined in HB 4 and to strengthen transparency safeguards.  Working closely with Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, Rep. Ely fashioned SB 668 into legislation that all considered fair to those who would be under the jurisdiction of the commission and that would meet the public’s demand for strength, independence and transparency.

On the House floor, SB 668, the State Ethics Commission Act, was amended twice more, and then passed the House unanimously, by a vote of 66-0.  On the final day of the session, the Senate concurred with the House amendments, and the State Ethics Commission Act is now on the governor’s desk for signing into law, effective July 1, 2019.

Is it a perfect bill? No.  In fact, it does not rise up to meet several of the elements NMEW outlined in its January Essential Elements for an Independent Ethics Commission document.  But it does provide for an independent ethics commission, with a transparent process that is fair, and the ability to expand, as the commission sees fit to recommend. NMEW believes the law will meet the expectations of the public and assist in promoting a strong ethical culture in New Mexico!

Now, on to the regulatory process…

SB 668: As amended, moves to the House floor!

[Editor’s Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the legislative process – and sometimes even for those of us who are! – the process can seem like the worst way to create good legislation.  There can be frustrating last-week maneuvers – like the tabling of HB 4 and the introduction of SB 668 through a dummy bill – and a flurry of amendments that can be hard to follow because they are not online and no one at the hearing, save for the legislators, has the proposed amendments in front of them, in any form.  What does not show at the end, however, is the work people have done ahead of time, preparing them for these moments of chaos: whether it be advocacy groups gathering together, on the phone and in the halls of the capitol, examining how the latest suggested amendments might impact the totality of the bill and getting that information to the sponsor and others; legislators having mapped out the process they’d like to see reflected in the legislation on a white board, and then demanding that process; or sponsors working hard behind the scenes to speak with their colleagues either to understand or persuade. Many, many people who have been hoping for the best possible ethics commission enabling legislation have been keeping a close eye on – and speaking up about! – the process and the shifting sands of legislation.  Despite how it may seem, the public’s interest, demonstrated by the overwhelming 75% approval for the commission, is being protected and expressed.  How things work out in the end remains to be seen, however.]

Yesterday, SB 668 (a Senate Education Committee substitute amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then again on the Senate Floor), passed the House Judiciary Committee, and is now heading to the House floor, we think today.

What does SB 668 do that NMEW likes, thinks meets public expectations/demand, or can accept?

Jurisdiction: the bill, as amended, limits the jurisdiction of the commission to those specifically named in the constitutional amendment, rather than expand it to include school board members and charter school commissioners (SB 619), or local government officials (as the SJC amendments to SB 668 would have done as of July 1, 2021), before the commission can make and report on its judgment as to whether the expansion of jurisdiction to others is appropriate.

SB 668, as amended, also removes the newly-added requirements that the ethics commission oversee civil enforcement of the Open Meeting Act and the Inspection of Public Records Act, leaving that where it now lies, with the Attorney General’s Office, with their decades of enforcement and institutional knowledge about the application of these laws to public bodies and meetings.

The amended bill also clears up some confusing concurrent jurisdiction issues, making it easier for the public to understand the process, and the commission and agencies to agree upon sensible and appropriate divisions of labor.

Process: the bill, as amended, restores the process and separation of duties between the executive director (who determines jurisdiction and performs necessary administrative tasks), the general counsel (who investigates and adjudicates) and hearing officers.

Transparency: The bill, as amended, provides notification of the finding of probable cause to the complainant and respondent upon that finding, and requires the notification, complaint, specific allegations being investigated and any response to the complaint to be made public twenty days following notice to the respondent.  The hearing is also public, and the commission is required to publicly disclose a decision, including a dismissal or terms of a settlement.  Additionally, the amended bill permits either the complainant or the respondent to disclose a complaint determined to be frivolous, unsubstantiated or outside the jurisdiction of the commission.

Subpoena Power: The amended bill requires the commission to petition a district court judge, designated annually by the Supreme Court, for the issuance of appropriate subpoenas. [Editor’s Note: NMEW believes the best legislation would permit the commission to issue subpoenas without going to court.  With a designated judge, however, the time delay should be less, as the judge may be familiar with the issues, have studied the laws over which the commission has jurisdiction, and be prepared to issue subpoenas.  NMEW hopes that if this process proves to be too burdensome it will be amended to permit the commission to issue subpoenas.]

That brings us to today, to the House Floor, where there is a hope that the members will take note of the thoughtful process that has brought us to where this legislation is at this moment, as amended…and amended…and amended.

You can watch the House floor proceedings by going here, and clicking on the “In Progress” button next to the House proceedings title, after the House begins its session.

Onward!