Oklahoma Ethics Commission considers blackout period for filing complaints
An Ethics Commission member says at the very least some distinction must be made between a complaint alleging a violation of ethics rules and a complaint dealing with campaign reporting errors.
Filing complaints with the state Ethics Commission against lawmakers and elected officials during the campaign season would be prohibited, according to a suggested rule proposed by a member of the five-member commission.
“It's important for fairness to all candidates that we institute a rule that we will not accept ethics complaints during that period,” Commissioner Jo Pettigrew said during Friday's meeting.
Pettigrew said she was bothered by the filing of several ethics complaints this year.
Under Ethics Commission rules, the person filing the complaint is free to talk about the matter but the Ethics Commission staff and commission members are prohibited from it.
Many of the complaints filed this year had to do with errors in campaign reports and not actual ethics violations, she said.
“As we all know, just saying you have an ethics violation has such a connotation that is negative that it's unfair to the candidates' candidacy in an election,” Pettigrew said.
The Ethics Commission, after meeting in closed session, returned to an open meeting and dismissed seven complaints because no ethics violations occurred. They all involved alleged errors in campaign reports.
Marilyn Hughes, the commission's executive director, said the agency's attorney will review the commission's rules to see whether it could prohibit the filing of complaints during a specific period.'
Pettigrew said she would like to see a blackout period from the filing period in mid April in even-numbered years to the general election that November.