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Ethics: Training course is a valuable opportunity

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel editorial

West Virginia has a nine-member Ethics Commission, meant to “investigate, initiate, process and adjudicate complaints of potential violations of the Ethics Act.” The commission issues advisory opinions regarding the Ethics Act and Open Government Meetings Act, oversees registration and reporting of lobbyists, processes financial disclosure statements from candidates and public servants, and responds to inquiries regarding those matters.

Lobbyists and public employees have many opportunities to receive training through the Ethics Commission. There are online training videos, the possibility of in-person sessions and plenty of information available at any time.

But what about the general public? The Ethics Commission serves us, too.

That is why the commission is offering a free, one-hour training event — open to anyone — at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 20, in the Capitol Room of the West Virginia Training Center, Building 7, in the Capitol Complex in Charleston.

If you are wondering whether an elected official should have recused himself from a vote because it represented a conflict of interest; or if a job was improperly bid out because an official hoped to help an old contractor friend get the job; or whether taxpayer money is being improperly spent, this training session could help you learn how to communicate with the Ethics Commission to get a clearer answer — and perhaps an advisory opinion for the officials involved.

Fair warning, though — not all perceived lapses in ethics turn out to be what they seemed, or result in any action from the commission. Sometimes a simple explanation reveals the truth is far less concerning than members of the public may have believed. All the more reason for a full understanding of the role of this very important commission and the public’s relationship with it.

Those who want to find out more should take advantage of the opportunity for this public training session.

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