Democrat Resigns From TN Ethics Commission

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Democrat Resigns From TN Ethics Commission

Postby Todd » Thu Sep 09, 2010 6:18 pm

Charles Farmer resigns from TN ethics commission

* Associated Press
* Posted September 9, 2010 at 12:56 p.m.

JACKSON, Tennessee - Former Jackson mayor Charles Farmer has resigned from the state ethics commission over his frustration with the board's inability to stop corruption.

Farmer sent a letter of resignation last week to Gov. Phil Bredesen, who appointed him to the board.

The commission was created to oversee the ethics of the legislative and executive branches in the aftermath of the FBI's 2005 Tennessee Waltz undercover bribery sting operation that led to the convictions of five former lawmakers. The six-member commission regulates lobbying activities, financial disclosure requirements and ethical conduct. It was later merged with the state Registry of Election Finance.

Farmer, who spent two years on the panel, told The Jackson Sun that most of the commission's time is spent monitoring the timeliness of financial disclosures.

"We're fining people for being a day late, two or three days late or a week late and those people have no intention to do anything illegal or corrupt," Farmer said Wednesday. "At the same time we're not impacting the serious laws in the (government)."

He said in his resignation letter that the problems that create political corruption are outside the bounds of the commission's control.

Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state's Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said the board is limited to the jurisdictions in which it can enforce laws. Some of its enforcement areas include keeping lobbyists from giving gifts to legislators.

"I think the areas that the ethics commission has enforcement over, they have enforced the statutes appropriately," Rawlins said.

Farmer said that ethics and morality are hard to enforce in politics.

"It's to me a sad state that we're in in which people are not working together toward common goals," Farmer said. "They're trying to perpetuate their party or themselves.

"Money is far too much in politics, particularly once you get past the local level," he said. "The purchasing of power is really legally sanctioned."

Lydia Lenker, Bredesen's spokeswoman, said the governor will speak with the state's director of Boards of Commissions about appointing a replacement.

"That commission grew out of a special session on ethics the governor called, and the governor feels the commission has evolved ever since," she said.

More details as they develop online and in Friday's News Sentinel.
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