Ethics, please

Apr 24, 2002 at 12:00 am

News Hits has experienced more than its share of duh moments when covering government meetings over the years, but few have been as profound as one we endured last week. It occurred while attorney George Ward was telling a Wayne County Commission committee about a charter amendment that would severely limit campaign contributions from contractors and others doing business with the county. Ward and his cohorts want commissioners to put the initiative directly on the ballot, saving the band of citizen-activists the time and expense of gathering upward of 60,000 signatures otherwise needed to get the proposal before voters.

After Ward made his pitch, Commissioner Susan L. Hubbard, who chairs the Committee on Government Operations, chirped that she is all for tough ethical standards, but noted for the record that she has a teensy, eensy problem with the timing of Ward’s effort. Taking a swipe at County Executive Ed McNamara and his well-oiled political machine, Hubbard declared that, with Boss Ed about to leave office, Ward’s get-tough proposal is “about 10 years too late.” Hubbard went on to suggest that anyone elected to office from now on would, good-golly, never, ever hop into bed with campaign contributors the way McNamara has. Gosh, no! Especially now that the political ATM known as Detroit Metro Airport will likely be overseen by a separate authority, we should expect that only idealistic public servants — whose pure hearts will keep them from falling prey to wealthy influence peddlers — will hold office from here to eternity.

It was at that point News Hits thought its brain would explode, sending skull fragments shooting through the room like shrapnel. But Ward, the former No. 2 man in the county Prosecutor’s Office, retained his composure, saying, “It’s never too late to keep (lawmakers) on the straight and narrow.”

Hubbard’s committee decided to have county lawyers review the proposed measure and then forward it to the entire commission for a vote. News Hits will be there, but not without a bellyful of Valium. It’s going to be that kind of debate.

Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]