Ethics Matter: A Federal Juror Speaks Out

May 22, 2017
Comprehensive ethics ordinance needed for Bethlehem

The Shawn Martel ethics training ordinance before Bethlehem City Council is not enough. Can we not pass the more comprehensive Olga Negron-Michael Colon ethics ordinance brought before council in January?

For five months in 2008-09, I was a juror on the Sen. Vincent Fumo federal trial in Philadelphia. Fumo was convicted for crimes involving political corruption, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. During trial, we heard testimony from the chair of the State Ethics Commission, who described that the ethics code sadly had little teeth; it was not seen as a means of checking politicians and institutions for corruption before it got to the level of Fumo’s crimes.

During deliberations, our jury discussed that perhaps our convictions would send a message that ethics matter.

In Bethlehem, we can be a standard-bearer for excellence in governing. Given the current national political climate — with the unintended consequence of questioning truth and eroding public trust for public officials — a strong ethics statute has never been more necessary. Can we not live up to Bethlehem’s reputation for being one of the best places to live by enacting a model and comprehensive ethics program for our city government?

Karen White
Bethlehem
The Morning Call, May 22, 2017