The Cesspool of Government Ethics: Louisiana Edition


Comparing ethics to Ms. Jones' position is apples to Oranges...

Comparing ethics to Ms. Jones’ position is apples to Oranges…

Are government ethics at all levels really getting worse, or is it just that we have more and easier access to the evidence than we used to? I hope it’s the latter. I fear it’s the former. Certainly I have never seen anything as disgusting as San Diego Mayor Filner’s determination to stay in office as evidence mounts that he is a serial sexual harasser and a menace to any woman who is unfortunate enough to come within arm’s reach. Despite the fact that the number of women coming forward to accuse him has reached eleven (actually I haven’t checked since last night…it’s probably more by now), and despite polls that show that two-thirds of the city’s voters think he should resign ( the other third are Democrats, which should, but won’t, cause some critical self-examination by the party that claims to be on the right side in “the war against women”), Filner refuses to do the honorable thing, and instead will force the city to spend millions on a recall.

The carnivals of the shameless in San Diego and New York have been keeping less spectacular but equally troubling tales elsewhere from getting proper attention. In Louisiana, for example, where ethics has always meant something other than, well, ethics, we have this  sequence of events.

Orange Jones is the executive director for the New Orleans chapter of  Teach For America. Which she was elected to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the state’s Ethics Board chose to declare, in opposition to the recommendation of its own attorneys, that the obvious conflict of interest—Teach For America bids on state teaching contracts, which are awarded by the board—wasn’t one, on the disingenuous theory that Jones was only the head of the city’s Teach For America operations, not the whole state’s.

Presto! The board then awarded a million dollar contract to Jones’ employer, whichshowed its gratitude by putting her in charge of the state’s operations, but leaving her local-only title in tact, to make sure that phony “no conflict” ethics ruling could stay in place.

Naturally, Orange Jones doesn’t see a problem. She explained that it would be a problem if she sat on the Teach for America national board or were part of the organization’s national leadership team, but she’s doesn’t. She just runs things. She recuses herself from all board votes involving Teach for America. Isn’t that enough?

Of course not:

  • It creates the appearance of impropriety.
  • She is still able to lobby for her employer’s case to her board colleagues prior to votes, which are, as anyone who has sat on such boards knows, mere formalities once the decisions and deals have been hammered out in the shadows…where Jones is not recused.
  • Who knows what information she conveys to Teach for America?

It’s the perfect storm for government corruption. A lazy electorate elevates an individual to a job she should have been disqualified from seeking; a cynical state ethics board pretends there’s nothing amiss; money changes hands; rewards are handed out; the miscreants say that all the rules have been followed; and the public shrugs.


Pointer: Diane Ravitch

Facts and Graphic: NOLA



One thought on “The Cesspool of Government Ethics: Louisiana Edition

  1. It’s going to be a long, hard road lifting Louisiana out of the Kingfish Kingdom, where it’s resided these many decades. If history is any guide, state investigators might want to take a peek in her freezer.

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