Ethics questions demand answers

Hancock County commissioners — and residents of the county — should want to know more about a reported vacancy on the Parks and Recreation Board.

Commissioners were notified of the vacancy last week, through a memorandum from board President Jeffery Wargo.

It contained the information that a board member resigned earlier this month — after being informed some of his actions may have been unethical.

One interesting sentence in the memo noted that a conversation between the member in question and others had been recorded.

No information on precisely what the former board member did was provided in the memo.

Commissioners ought to find out and make the information public.

It needs to be noted that while some violations of the state’s ethics rules are outrageous abuses of the public’s trust, many do not fall into that category. Quite often, they are infractions not committed with any intent to do harm. Sometimes, they involve behavior by part-time, volunteer public servants — such as park board members — who believe sincerely that they are acting in the public’s best interests.

Still, rules are rules.

If the matter has not been referred to the state Ethics Commission already, Hancock County officials should notify that agency.

If intentional wrongdoing was involved, the former parks and recreation board member should be held accountable.

If his actions were committed without any intent to do harm, others in similar positions ought to be informed so they can avoid similar mistakes.

One way or the other, commissioners and Hancock County residents should be informed of what happened.

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