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Walt’s Plan to Promote Ethics and Fight Corruption in Government

Bringing back ethical government in Alabama starts at the top.

One commentator recently said Alabama citizens have grown to expect their politicians to be corrupt and so are not that alarmed by the never-ending scandals that led Illinois State University’s Institute for Corruption Studies to rank Alabama as the most corrupt state when it comes to “legal corruption” — conduct by public officials that is technically legal but clearly unethical; and second in “illegal corruption,” conduct that is expressly against the law.

This was not an isolated study as in 2015 Alabama earned a D+ in ethics by the Center for Public Integrity, and in recent years has often been called one of the most corrupt states. This picture of lowered expectations is disturbing because Alabama citizens should demand maximum ethical conduct from those they elect.

My record of always following the highest ethical standards is proven by my 17 years of elected public service without any hint of ethical lapse. No ethics complaint has ever been filed against me, no investigations have been launched, and no scandals have broken out.

The key has been full transparency and accountability, compliance with all reporting and disclosure requirements, actively guarding against conflicts of interest, and total dedication to putting the interests of the people I serve first.

In just the past two years, Alabama has seen its Governor involved in a sex scandal before pleading guilty to ethics law violations and resigning in disgrace, the Speaker of the House sentenced to prison for corruption in office, and our chief justice removed from office a second time for defying the law he was sworn to uphold. Dozens of others have been convicted of corruption, each bringing embarrassment to our state.

And what has been state government’s reaction to these scandals? While the leaders of all three branches of government have been run out of office in shame, Alabama has been busy creating new loopholes that allow greed and corruption to hide behind legitimate fronts like economic development.

When I put my campaign team together to run for governor, I prepared a presentation for them so that everyone would know my expectations. These were the first two points we discussed:

  • We will maintain the highest standards of integrity
  • We will never violate the law or cross ethical lines

I demand such commitments from those I lead, because the trust of the people we serve is essential to effective government.
Under my administration, this is how we will bring back the highest level of ethical integrity to state government:

  • The ethics law should be amended to prohibit persons from working in state government who are paid by someone other than the state; to prohibit misuse of state resources even when there is no personal gain; to cover those in romantic relationships with government officials or employees, in addition to spouses; and to prohibit those in authority from directing, initiating, or receiving reports on criminal investigation for political or personal purposes.
  • Unless and until these amendments are made by the legislature, I will use my executive powers to the maximum extent allowed by law to make these rules applicable to officials and employees under my command.
  • I will mandate that all staff and cabinet members under the governor’s control fully disclose all potential conflicts of interest and recuse themselves from any matter for which their impartiality reasonably could be questioned.
  • Under my administration, the Governor’s Office will go above and beyond the requirements of ethics and sunshine laws by implementing the following practices:
    • Disclose visitor logs of all who meet with the governor in accordance with the Alabama public records laws.
    • Disclose all assistance offered by the state for economic development.
    • Mandate full compliance with public meeting, open records, and ethics laws.
    • Seek and facilitate public comment on significant proposals that would commit state resources./li>
    • Holding bi-weekly press conferences at which questions from the media will be taken.

    In the presentation to my staff discussed above, my opening remarks also made this critical, overriding, steadfast point: We will never forget that we are fighting for Alabama’s future.

    When government officials and employees know that this is the true purpose of the positions of public trust they hold, then ethics in government comes naturally and without qualification. Let us all fight together for a brighter, more trustworthy future for Alabama.

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