JCOPE was originally created because of a state overhaul of ethics laws, but resulted in a conflict of interest because the board allows membership by elected officials. Legislative appointees are able to short-circuit investigations of lawmakers, even if a majority of the board votes for action. The 14-member board should be reduced.
There should be “revolving door” restrictions on the hiring of staff for JCOPE and the LEC to ensure they have not been recently employed by those whose ethics they monitor. The public must feel confident that the state’s ethics regulations are being enforced without fear or favor.
JCOPE and LEC should be covered by the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and Open Meetings Law. Both laws currently allow for investigations and related activities to be exempt from public disclosure. Public support is bolstered by openness, so the state’s ethics watchdogs must be open and accountable to the public which they serve.