commission could have found something to meet about given repeated reports of blatant conflicts of interest and other questionable activities. "There's been no attention paid to ethics here, period," Mrs. Leshner said.
At present, the commission is meeting to formulate a new ethics code, which will be voted on later by the freeholders. Its proposals follow the standard code used by the federal government and by many state governments and municipalities: comprehensive financial disclosure requirements for department heads, prohibitions to prevent conflicts of interest, and a requirement barring former employees from obtaining contracts with the county for at least two years.
A recent article by Inquirer reporter Thomas Turcol showed that in Camden County a sizable number of employees have been leaving their jobs and coming right back to gain fat consulting contracts from their old buddies.
The key here is whether the freeholders will give the commission some enforcement clout so it won't wither away in pessimism and neglect, as the previous group apparently did. Philadelphia's Board of Ethics, which should have enough business to meet daily, meets only four times a year. Lacking any enforcement powers, it considers only those ethical questions public figures choose to ask it, sometimes after the potential misdeed is done.
Right now, pressure for the new ethics code is coming from the Republican freeholders, the party in the minority. Though politics is not the purest ground for expressions of ethical concerns to grow, there's still a chance for ethics with citizens like Mrs. Leshner and Rabbi Harry B. Kellman, now chairman of the commission, on the case. Both seem capable of moral outrage and say they intend to be more vigilant than their predecessors.
What seems important for now is that the commission keep on meeting and not send the signal that ethics has rolled over and died again.