EDITORIAL | Langley ethics board has a tough job

  • Saturday, October 28, 2017 1:17pm
  • Opinion

The Langley Ethics Training and Advisory Board has its hands full this month with four separate reviews, including one levied against one of its own members.

The complaint levied against board member Monica Guzman by City Councilman Burt Beusch is an interesting one to be sure. It alleges that Guzman libeled Beusch by writing a letter to the editor falsely characterizing him as a Trump supporter. He says the letter damaged his reputation during an election and that Guzman’s actions were unethical because she should be impartial as a member of the ethics board.

Concerning the topic of Trump, there seems to be a perception that asking candidates how they feel about the man is somehow anathema because the council races are nonpartisan. Rubbish. Council positions are as nonpartisan as county positions such as the sheriff or coroner are partisan, which they technically are. Council members do provide oversight, but they are not managers or department heads. They’re lawmakers. So what they think about federal issues such as the environment, sanctuary cities or the most controversial man in the world is entirely appropriate and fair game. As this complaint highlights, the answer to the question is pretty important to those they are choosing as their elected representatives.

The issue before the ethics board, however, isn’t about presidential support. It weighs in one hand the sacred right of freedom of speech, and in the other ethical guidelines and obligations that all Langley public servants agree to uphold as city officials. It’s our opinion that the former trumps the latter, always, but the ethics board doesn’t have the luxury of basing its decisions on what it feels is right or just — opinions are stacked against the principles of conduct outlined in city code. Were they violated or not? That’s the only question the body must answer.

In that context, we don’t envy the job of the ethics board. We trust that they will make the best decision possible.

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