EDITORIAL: Philpot provides incentive for ethics training

2012-08-28T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Philpot provides incentive for ethics training nwitimes.com
August 28, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Yet another politician has been removed from office because of public corruption. Former Lake County Clerk Thomas Philpot was convicted on five counts of theft and fraud charges.

Because these were felony convictions, Philpot was automatically removed from office as county coroner.

The conviction is a reminder of the need to create a culture of ethics in Lake County, as the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission and some others are trying to do.

Philpot was was charged with pocketing more than $24,000 in federally funded child support incentive funds. His explanation was that it was intended as a reward for the county doing such a good job of collecting child support from parents.

But why should that money have gone into any public official's pocket instead of to the parents who need it to raise their children?

Even if it hadn't been illegal for Tom Philpot to have pocketed that money, it still was morally wrong.

This is a perfect example of why training is needed to develop the culture of ethics that the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission members are so earnestly trying to promote.

East Chicago recently joined the commission and should be praised for doing so. That brings another major community into the fold.

The Lake County Council and Lake County commissioners talked about joining, but that fell through when the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission would not change its code of ethics as a condition for the county getting on board. The code was revised, but not because a new potential signatory demanded it.

The Lake County Council should come up with the money to join the ethics bandwagon, and the county commissioners should endorse this initiative.

And once that happens, every elected office holder in Lake County government should sign a promise to participate fully in those efforts.

Joining the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission requires more than writing a check and appointing someone to the commission. It also means sending people to be trained in conducting ethics training, and adopting a mechanism for enforcing ethical behavior.

The U.S. attorney's office should keep up its efforts to remove corrupt public officials from office. But the feds shouldn't be seen as the only way to ensure ethical behavior in government.

Training is needed so public employees and elected officials can understand how to respond even before temptation hits.

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