Op-ed: Conflict or Corruption?

(Image provided by Jon Kiper)

By Jon Kiper

February 12, 2024

Conflicts of interest rely on more than just monetary benefits. Per official ethics guidelines, a potential conflict of interest exists when a lawmaker—or someone in their household—is responsible for the financial welfare of an organization, even if uncompensated for their work.

A real-life example is that of House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn). His 2023 financial disclosure does not mention that his wife, Sharon Osborne, serves as Chairman of the Board at Latitude Learning, a homeschool cooperative. Rep. Osborne is required to report this potential conflict in his disclosure. However, this oversight is not his only violation of the public trust.

On February 8th, the legislature voted on HB1561, HB1634, and HB1665, all bills related to the education voucher program. Rep. Osborne did not recuse himself on any of these votes, even though Latitude Learning accepts voucher funds—$28,750 in 2022.

Ethics guidelines speak directly to such a scenario: “A legislator is required to file [a Declaration of Intent] form…[w]henever a legislator or a legislator’s household member has a nonfinancial personal interest in the outcome of a matter that is the subject of official activity…and the legislator has not made the disclosure on the General Disclosure of Non-Financial Personal Interests Form.”

It’s possible to file a complaint with the Legislative Ethics Committee, but such a complaint is considered confidential by law, and revealing any investigation to the public is a misdemeanor offense. Readers are encouraged to submit a confidential complaint here.

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CATEGORIES: COMMUNITY | POLITICS

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