Friday's indictment of a school official has put government ethics in the spotlight once again.
Francisco "Frank" Ramirez, the longtime treasurer for School City of East Chicago, is accused of accepting a bribe from Gerardo "Jerry" Lozano, the owner of Greentree Builders, for school construction contracts valued at $5,000 or more. Lozano was also arrested, charged with bribing a public official.
Ramirez filed a plea agreement Monday, in which he agreed to plead guilty. Lozano's attorney, John Cantrell, said his client continues to maintain his innocence.
The federal government alleges Ramirez agreed to accept free home remodeling work from Lozano.
Ramirez resigned his position with the school district.
The federal government's allegations in this case highlight the need for the school district to offer ethics training for its employees.
The Shared Ethics Advisory Commission offers just such an opportunity, and all units of local government should join this effort.
The commission is hosting its second annual Ethics in Government Breakfast on April 5. The meeting is free, but reservations are required. The breakfast offers an opportunity for local officials to hear more about ethics in government. It is also another opportunity to find out how to join the commission and take advantage of the training expertise that comes from a combined effort.
U.S. Attorney David Capp spoke about the indictment in a statement Friday.
"We will continue aggressively investigating allegations of using a public position for private gain and, where appropriate, seek federal indictments. Our investigation continues," Capp said.
One more indictment in Lake County, and one more reason to get involved in the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.
Public corruption investigations must continue, but prevention must get equal attention.
The ethics-in-government movement is growing, but there are still many communities that have yet to get on board. The need for training is clear, as this indictment reminds us.