To the Editor:
In response to your December 13th article entitled "Ethics Commission should live up to its name ," I would like to respond.
The four-hour public meeting of the Tennessee Ethics Commission demonstrates the seriousness and dedication with which it takes its work. The issues debated involved significant interpretations of the law as evidenced by the large number of reporters, lobbyists, lawyers and members of the public in attendance. Quick discussions and decisions would belittle the importance of the Commission's work.
With regard to the article's concern that the Commission does not share its work with lobbyists, at the Commission's public meeting on October 31st, a draft advisory opinion concerning lawyers was first discussed. Following that public discussion (in which Mr. Ramsaur and other lobbyists were in attendance and allowed to comment), the Commission staff prepared a new draft of the opinion which was posted on the Commission's public website on November 27th and an e-mail was sent to Mr. Ramsaur and other lobbyists so notifying them. On December 4th, a Commissioner e-mailed proposed edits without comment to all Commissioners, but no discussion, deliberation or meeting of any kind took place among the Commissioners between the sending of the draft and the public meeting when the Commissioner's proposed edits were made available to the public prior to the meeting. The draft was subsequently debated at the public meeting, at which time Mr. Ramsaur and other lobbyists were provided an opportunity to comment.
Since its beginning, the Commission has acted with openness and full compliance with the law. In fact, the Commission has repeatedly gone beyond the mandates of the law by posting draft opinions, agendas, and meeting minutes on its website prior to meetings and inviting interested parties like Mr. Ramsaur the opportunity to participate in meetings. I urge your readers and the public to monitor the Commission's website (www.tn.gov/sos/tec/ ) and attend our next public meeting, scheduled for February 15th, and come to their own conclusions about the seriousness and openness of the Commission.
Bruce A. Androphy
Tennessee Ethics Commission