Despite lawmaker troubles, legislature’s ethics committees don’t do much

Excerpt from a Tennessean report on how Tennessee laws dealing with public officials ethics work — or don’t:

The Tennessee Senate Ethics Committee has not received a single complaint and has not met since 2005, Overbey said.

That’s despite the fact that in 2009, then-Sen. Paul Stanley, R-Germantown, faced scrutiny over allegations he had an affair with an intern. Stanley later resigned.

The House Ethics Committee has not fielded a complaint since the 106th General Assembly, which convened in 2009 and 2010, said Himes, the committee’s attorney.

Himes previously told The Tennessean that since he began working for the committee in 2003 there have been fewer than 10 complaints, none of which have been substantiated.

By comparison, since January 2010, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission has received 16 complaints. In five of those cases, the commission found lawmakers in violation of the code of ethics. In addition nine complaints were dismissed, and two cases are still pending, Schaaf’s office said.

In 2014 the Connecticut ethics office conducted 132 reviews of potential violations by elected officials, state employees, lobbyists or contractors. The year before it reviewed 232.

Although two Tennessee lawmakers — Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, and Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville — are facing separate forms of scrutiny, there have not been formal complaints filed against them in the House committee.

Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, chairman of the Tennessee House ethics committee, said there is no reason to believe the system isn’t working.

“Until someone brings us a complaint, we have no reason to be meeting,” he said. McDaniel said he doesn’t believe the state has a “huge ethics problem.”