A reader e-mailed wondering why the Tom Story matter doesn’t just get referred to the city’s Ethics Commission. There’s a reasonable argument that the state attorney general shouldn’t get the case because it’s a city-specific law that Story is alleged to have violated. It’s not state law. As long as there’s an entity in the city that’s not conflicted in the matter, the AG probably shouldn’t need to get involved.
So I called Stacey Fulhorst, the executive director of the city’s Ethics Commission.
Could the commission take the case?
“I wouldn’t comment on this particular matter but in general it’s certainly the Ethics Commission’s role to investigate alleged violations of the post-employment restrictions in the city’s municipal code,” Fulhorst said.
Story, of course, is alleged to have violated the city law that prohibits a former city official from lobbying the city on behalf of a private entity for a certain amount of time after leaving public service. Also, it permanently prohibits officials from lobbying on a project that they worked on as a public servant.
The Ethics Commission doles out administrative, not criminal, punishments. In other words, it can fine violators up to $5,000 for each infraction it proves occurred. But it couldn’t convict anyone of a misdemeanor.
So, if it still needs to be prosecuted as a criminal matter, then the Ethics Commission can’t do it.
I have a question for you lawyers and judges out there: Who ultimately gets to decide what entity prosecutes a case? It seems like in other places, there’s a mutual camaraderie among prosecutors from the city, county and state that allows them to work these things out. What happens when there’s a potential crisis like this?