Mike Pence didn’t waste any time getting to work after being sworn in as Indiana governor.
The afternoon following the ceremony Monday, he issued 15 executive orders, putting a number of his core political beliefs into action with directives on ethics, red tape, aiding traditional families and boosting jobs among military veterans.
One of the directives requires every state agency to appoint an ethics officer charged with promoting transparency and integrity in government. His order also calls on the state inspector general to hold an ethics conference each year to serve as a refresher course of sorts on the topic.
This is an important step both philosophically and practically.
First, it sends a message to all Hoosiers that government will be operated above board and in the open. That’s important. It underscores the issue’s importance and bolsters confidence in the democratic process.
Second, Pence’s order does not grow out of any scandal or particular problem. But by setting up a protocol and ordering annual refreshers, state officials should be better equipped to prevent potentially problematic situations from even arising.
It would be helpful if, during the annual ethics conference, the state’s public access counselor offered a review and update on Indiana’s laws and regulations concerning open meetings and public records.
Again, this would not be in response to any particular issue or problem in the past. Rather, it would be an opportunity to make the point to government employees that the governing process works best when the public and public employees work as a team and not at loggerheads or cross purposes.
While this issue is broader than simply a state issue, state-level attention also would send an appropriate message to other governments across Indiana.
In fact, it would be helpful if the governor’s proposed ethics refresher course were opened to public officials of all levels from across the state. That would increase the impact and enhance the benefits as well.
In a democracy, it is vital that the public buy into the governing process. The greater the transparency in governmental operations, the greater the public confidence and trust in the leaders and their decisions.
The governor’s order on ethics is a good first step toward a fully open administration.