Democrats’ focus on integrity, accountability being well-placed

January 14, 2014

Considering the make-up of the platform announced Sunday by Democrats in the West Virginia House of Delegates, it’s not surprising that charges of partisanship were soon forthcoming.

But the overall thrust of the Democrats’ self-described “first plank” — increased accountability aimed at boosting the integrity of state government — is a worthy objective that would affect Democrats and Republicans alike. In light of events that have transpired in the past few years, adding more integrity and ethical behavior would be a welcome step.

Among the transgressions or questionable actions have been abuse of power by Democratic politicians in Mingo County, questions about improper purchasing practices and overspending connected to a $126 million broadband expansion project overseen by the Democratic administration, concerns about conflicts of interest in the Attorney General’s Office, and how money that is won in court by the Attorney General’s Office is used. Just last week, legislative leaders suggested that a preliminary audit of the state’s Department of Agriculture under the administration of former commission Gus Douglas, a Democrat, showed possible violations of the law.

There seems to be no shortage of questionable behavior to address, and the general outline of what the House Democrats aim to pursue in the coming legislative session is appropriate.

Among the five initiatives announced by House Speaker Tim Miley were making it easier and possibly rewarding for “whisteblowers” to come forward with information about improper government activity; examining the use of loan programs within state agencies, including the Department of Agriculture; and ensuring purchasing procedures both at the state and local level are done on a competitive basis and are more transparent.

Many issues besides the House Democrats’ “first plank” will come up during this year’s legislative session, but there are sufficient examples of questionable activities to make more accountability and transparency important topics for consideration.

— The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington