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Virginia Gets Low Marks for Ethics Enforcement

How transparent is Virginia government?

One new report says the Commonwealth is falling far behind other states.

The Old Dominion ranks in the bottom third of states for ethics enforcement. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Coalition for Integrity.

Shruti Shah at the coalition says the General Assembly has ethics advisory panels, but they’re limited.  “They do have the power to investigate ethics violations. But it’s only on referral from the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council," Shah notes. "They have no authority to sanction any violations that they uncover.” 

Virginia legal expert Rich Kelsey says it’s really not all that surprising that open-government laws don’t get much traction in Richmond.  “It is the people who are elected who have to choose to put themselves under the microscope and allow themselves to be investigated and, when appropriate, to have enforcement procedures. And somehow the General Assembly never gets around to the last piece of that puzzle.”

Click here to read the full report from the Coalition for Integrity

The Coalition for Integrity is hoping candidates for office this November will finally get around to the last piece of the puzzle, and they are asking candidates to take the Virginia Integrity Challenge — pledging to support some kind of enforcement authority. So far, 18 candidates have signed on, both Democrat and Republican.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.