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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: Is There "Legal" Corruption in NKY?

I received many varied responses to last week’s column.

Some people are polar opposites. One person called the column “yellow journalism”, while another liked the column and was appreciative that the issue of corruption in NKY is being spoken about. Another felt that benchmarking (comparing the cities and counties using standard measurements) was a good way to begin rooting out cronyism and corruption. 

I felt compelled to look up the definition of “yellow journalism” which is defined as journalism based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration. After receiving that 
comment, I reviewed my column again. As I re-read it, the column was not sensational and did not contain exaggerations. What it did contain was readers’ comments about corruption in NKY!   

While I sometimes tend to be rather thinned skin when criticized, I am happy that Another Voice has followers and has caused reactions from our readers. This column is 
a conversation. Only with your responses, can we continue that dialogue.

Last week, I promised I would follow up the first two columns about corruption with what is being done here in NKY with “benchmarking” our cities and counties. I apologize. I have not completed my research with the folks who are collecting and comparing data from the cities and counties. I will report to you in the next column on what I have found.

But, following up on another suggestion of one of our readers, this current column is dedicated to trying to define what you see as “legal” corruption. We all know what 
“illegal” corruption looks like. Two well-known examples here in NKY are embodied in the names Bob Due and Ron Epling, the jailed former finance directors of the Cities of Covington and Florence, respectively. Both of these men violated the public trust in a grossly “illegal” fashion. There are numerous other examples of “illegal” corruption here in NKY to cite as well.

How will we define “legal” corruption? Let’s begin by looking at one definition of corruption: 

“Public corruption involves a breach of public trust and/or abuse of position by federal, state, or local officials and their private sector accomplices. By broad definition, a government official, whether elected, appointed or hired, may violate federal law when he/she asks, demands, solicits, accepts, or agrees to receive anything of value in return for being influenced in the performance of their official duties.”

This seems pretty straightforward. But, can someone breach public trust and still be acting within the bounds of legal activity? Are there instances that the act of the official is lawful, but corrupt?

Yes, I believe that a public official can act in a lawful manner, but the action can be corrupting the system. The action can violate the public’s trust but still fall within the 
“legal” framework. Many times, following an election, I have heard the phrase “to the victor go the spoils”. Does this mean the newly elected official has won certain “spoils”? 

Can the act of obtaining those “spoils” be an act of legal corruption? I would argue it can.

For example, if a newly elected official appoints his/her campaign treasurer to a public board, does merely that act constitute “legal” corruption? What if the appointee is well-qualified for the board membership? Is it all right? What if the appointment is one that will benefit the appointee with lucrative business connections within the community? Has he/she “purchased” that appointment by acting as chair of the fundraising efforts for the campaign? This is “legal”, but is it corrupt?

I still struggle to write a definition for “legal” corruption. I think it is very much like defining pornography: “I will know it when I see it.” Others may say that like pornography, “legal” corruption is in the eyes of the beholder.

Please remember, this is a conversation, a public dialogue. What do you define as “legal” corruption? Do you have NKY examples you want to share publicly? Do so here in the comments section following this column. Do you have comments/examples, but would like to remain anonymous? You can help define “legal” corruption and comment here on the survey site: Click Here.

For more of Ken Rechtin's Another Voice, click here.

The views and opinions expressed here in “Another Voice” do not reflect the views or opinions of The River City News, its owners, writers, or editors. These are solely the ideas of Ken Rechtin. If you wish to make comment to Another Voice, Ken can be reached via email at [email protected] or you may leave a comment here. All rights to use of Another Voice in any fashion are retained by Ken Rechtin. Please contact him for any use of his columns.