Alabama’s Ethics Commission operates sort of like a combination of a police department for public officials and a source of information about the laws governing their conduct. The Commission receives citizens’ reports of potential violations, investigates these complaints and, where appropriate, punishes wrongdoing. In my opinion, the Commissioner doesn’t have all the tools it needs to do its job. There are 40 states that have ethics commissions and 37 grant their commissions the power to subpoena witnesses. There are three states that don’t: Alabama, Michigan and North Carolina.
The Alabama Ethics Commission needs some help in its authority to investigate public corruption. Currently, the Commission can look into ethics complaints against public officials, but only upon a signed formal complaint and with the voluntary cooperation of subjects. When wrongdoing is found, the commission can either fine the individual or refer the case to the state Attorney General or the District Attorney of the county where the offense occurred. The Alabama Ethics Commission needs the authority to subpoena witnesses and records. I believe the Legislature should pass the necessary legislation to give the Alabama Ethics Commission subpoena power.
Source: Mobile Press Register
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