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Regional ethics group is possibly illegal

Robert Fromer Windsor

Publication: The Day

Published 12/03/2012 12:00 AM
Updated 12/02/2012 06:04 PM

The Nov. 26 editorial titled "Welcoming a Regional Ethics Commission" failed to address the legal authority to create such commissions.

The editorial acknowledged that the commission would not have the authority to impose its decisions, but simply advise until enabling state legislation provided otherwise.

I argue that that there is no authority within the General Statutes (G.S.), section 4-124i through 4-124p that even authorizes such an advisory body irrespective of its meritorious purposes. A reading of SCCOG's charter doesn't even mention creation of such a commission. Additionally, the enabling legislation in section 4-178h only authorizes municipal or town ethics commissions without any mention of a regional agency.

According to section 7-148h, a regional commission lacks any authority to issue subpoenas, levy attorney's fees or damages for frivolous complaints. Further, an aggrieved party to any advisory opinion has no appellate rights pursuant to G.S., sections 1-82 (a) to (e). In other words, any such advisory decision is unenforceable, and anyone subject to a complaint directed to such commission should challenge its legal authority to hear the matter.

However, since SCCOG is a political subdivision, it should seek a legal opinion from the attorney general.

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