Holding Legislators Accountable

Larry Price
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Wednesday - May 23, 2007
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When you enter the cruel world of business, it is worth remembering that employees should behave sensibly at work.

In any organization, rules and regulations serve about the same purpose as laws do in society. There has to be some discipline based on three organizational pillars: clear rules, a system of progressive penalties and an appeal process.

That’s why it is disturbing to see how some of our legislators behaved this past session.

In every organization there are clear rules to follow, but there are no clear rules in our Legislature anymore. In every organization there is a system of progressive penalties. There is even a “three strikes and you’re out” policy for criminals.

But there is no such process in dealing with our legislators.

In every organization there is an appeal process, but not in our Legislature. There is no court of law to scrutinize their behavior. They do as they please. They can, and did, end a couple of brilliant government careers without batting an eye.

These managerial dismissals were handled like executions. Anyone who watched the confirmation hearings of Mr. Kim, Ms. White and Mr. Young had to feel sick at the carnage.

In the good old days they would notify the governor that they would not confirm her appointees no matter what testimony was received, and the doomed appointee would at least be allowed to leave government with a clean slate.

In any organization, dismissal is the most drastic disciplinary step the manager can take. Because of this, special care is demanded to ensure that sufficient cause exists for the dismissal.

Unsatisfactory performance, misconduct, lack of qualifications for the job and total elimination of the position - all of these concerns are paramount.

Yet in the recent confirmation hearings there was no gross misconduct. Nothing that would survive a court of appeals trial. The sad part is the senators didn’t have to worry about avoiding a wrongful discharge suit. It seems obvious that the policies governing confirmation procedures need to be fixed so the appointees feel they are treated fairly.

I believe the general public is tired of political groups fighting with each other for dominance rather than working together for the taxpayers.

In a poll conducted by Pacific Business News last week, Gov. Linda Lingle received a 77 percent approval rating, while our Democratic-controlled Legislature’s approval rating was 8 percent, and 15 percent had no opinion.

Is it possible for elected officials to take care of the taxpayers’ interests with such pathetic approval ratings?

They apparently don’t care what the public thinks about their performance.

Just because our current law-makers are more loyal to their handlers than to their constituents, it doesn’t mean the common taxpayer should not be shocked at their behavior and seek improvement. And in many cases that means treating all government employees fairly, whether they are gubernatorial appointees with a political affiliation or just government employees trying to serve the public.

Government employment is a noble career choice, and these people should be treated fairly by elected officials regardless of the political party they favor - and when they aren’t, there should be consequences.

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