Loophole legislation violates public trust

Some big corporate fat cat finds loopholes in the tax code and pays virtually no income taxes despite making millions and living a lavish lifestyle.

A successful high-profile hedge fund manager finds ways to benefit from proprietary information and grow personal investments without technically being guilty of insider trading.

A large commercial developer knows all the strings to pull and buttons to push to get permits to do work without the same kind of scrutiny that an individual builder finds constraining and sometimes prohibitive.

Or, a flimflam artist finds ways to bilk state and federal public assistance programs for tens of thousands of dollars, qualifying for benefits by being a little less than honest, but can’t really be convicted of illegality.

None of them have really violated the law.

They operate on the fringes.

They benefit from loopholes.

So, how do we feel about these things?

Largely, we do not think they should be rewarded for their ingenuity, craftiness and deceit.

Rather, most common, ordinary people feel violated.

And, we should.

When people look for loopholes in the law, their obvious intent is to get by with as much as they possibly can without going to jail.

When elected officials legislate by loophole while it may not technically constitute a violation of the law, it absolutely violates the public trust.

It is not exactly a secret that city and county officials use technicalities and loopholes to get around the state’s Open Meetings Act.

When attorneys instruct their clients on how to deliberate the public’s business in private without technically violating the Sunshine Law, it is obvious there is a total disregard for the public’s right to know.

What is commonly known among elected officials as the 3-on-3, is not illegal — it’s just wrong.

The Open Meetings Act basically requires that any time a quorum of any elected body meets then it constitutes a legal meeting, that must be open to public following an adequate public notice.

So, civic lawyers have interpreted that to mean that any number less than a quorum — three members of a body that requires four to make a quorum for example — can meet and deliberate all they want.

What transpires, then, actually becomes a bit of a game, or at least a tactic, that elected officials use to circumvent the public notice and public meeting requirements.

It amounts to vote-getting.

While officials think they are being clever, they are actually being dishonest and disingenuous.

Citizens have every right to know everything their elected government is doing and why they are doing it.

It is not enough to merely vote on every piece of legislation in public.

Deliberations should lake place before the public as well, whether it is at a public work session or in the regular meeting itself.

When a city council, county commission or board of education comes to a meeting, someone makes a motion, another makes a second, then they vote on some significant piece of business with no discussion, no description, no debate, it is obvious they are practicing loophole legislation.

Why even look for loopholes in the law if everything you are doing is on the up and up?

— Editor Jim Zachary