TRENTON – Senator John H. Adler, a member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, today said that the Committee’s records regarding complaints against lawmakers should be made open and available to the public prior to Committee consideration.
“We need some way for the public to be included when it comes to hearings regarding the conduct of legislators,” said Senator Adler, D-Cherry Hill, after attending an Ethics Committee hearing today. “This Ethics Committee is broken. We need real reform of the entire system. I think opening up ethics complaints to real public scrutiny will help fix many of the current problems.”
Under existing procedures, complaints against lawmakers are considered subject to the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), which allows members of the public to petition for access to government records. However, Senator Adler argued that the Committee often bases its decisions on ethics matters on materials prepared by the Office of Legislative Services staff. The Senator also noted that, to access even those materials which are currently considered public documents, New Jersey’s citizens would need to go through the OPRA process, which may be confusing and time-consuming.
“The system is very much broken, and could benefit from a healthy dose of public scrutiny and transparency,” said Senator Adler. “The public should be able to view the information provided to Ethics Committee members, and come to their own conclusions about the decisions we make as a panel. We should provide easy access to this information – possibly through the Legislature’s Web site – so that New Jerseyans don’t need to sift through needless bureaucracy to know what’s really the public’s business.”
Senator Adler requested that the Ethics Committee staff prepare a memo on opening up Committee records to the public, and added that he would introduce legislation if necessary.
“It’s in the public’s best interest to be informed about the actions of their representatives,” said Senator Adler.