In February, Oklahoma City attorney Lee Slater will take the helm of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. His appointment is a significant step to return that troubled agency to public respectability and increased effectiveness.
The agency is in charge of monitoring campaign finance reporting and investigating ethics complaints against public officials. Lawmakers and candidates have long complained clarity was lacking at the agency. A candidate requesting agency guidance could reportedly receive conflicting advice from different staff members or even the same individual at different times.
The agency had problems with ethics investigations. Last year, the commission reprimanded Department of Human Services' board member Steven Dow for doing unpaid work for an entity receiving some DHS funds, then reversed course — but only after Dow had resigned and the damage was done. Budget shenanigans redirecting money to employee pay raises instead of operational needs enhanced the agency's reputation for managerial incompetence and self-dealing.
Slater is uniquely qualified to right this ship. His legal work focused on campaign finance and ethics issues, and he previously served as head of the Oklahoma Election Board. Slater enjoys widespread, bipartisan respect.