Editor’s Note: Bob Cogswell has been an important member of our city’s landscape for quite some time, and a great friend of UCW. With his first efforts at commentary for UCW, we inadvertently gave him the nom de plum Bill Cogswell. Our apologies Bob.

    Ticketgate (Jones v. Knight) has spurred considerable public comment and debate in recent months relating to ethics of elected, appointed and employed public officials. This event occurred last fall, and yet it still generates significant media and back-office political attention each time something occurs as it methodically proceeds through the legal system, the latest being pleadings filed in the lawsuit between the two drivers involved. Unless it is settled, the lawsuit will eventually reach a decision on who is to be believed — Ms. Knight or Mr. Jones. By the way, try to find 12 jurors in Cumberland County who can say they have not heard or read about the incident.
    Little comment has been made regarding existing city policies, and the fact that initially they were followed, in that the mayor contacted the manager, who in turn contacted the police chief. Chavonne/Iman/Bergamine have all made public statements about the night in question and it is what it is — nothing is going to change what happened, and what each one did.  {mosimage}
    The proposed new Ethics Panel and guidelines being developed will once again generate debate and certainly bring out the ghosts of Ticketgate past.  What good will that do? Let’s confine the debate to the future, and not beat the drum of “shoulda’, coulda’, woulda,” regarding the conduct of Chavonne/Iman/Bergamine past tense as applied to any new ethics code. There is already one in the city code, and if it was violated back in the fall, it was for the folks in charge then to deal with.
    Legislators can debate, draft, enact and pledge to follow an ethics code.  However, ethics is not a piece of paper, but an indwelling attitude that we acquire early on in life. Our sense of right vs. wrong is learned from our parents, teachers and life experiences, but first and foremost, it is matter of the heart.  A former council member, Curtis Worthy, said it best: “You cannot legislate ethics.” Ask yourself, when confronted with an ethical choice, do you consult the rules or go with your conscience first?
    Such events and the ongoing attention they receive are not unusual or unique to any community, but there comes a time when it is best to lay the coffin to rest. Unless the waters part and some divine message from above makes everyone all of a sudden an ethical role model, what good does it do to keep harping on the issue?
    As a whole, our community has been blessed for years with right-thinking and honest leaders that did not need a set of rules to do the right thing. Rules are important and have a place, but the place is in the heart. If we need rules, try these, which are on tablets in the old Cumberland County Courthouse:
    “Thy shalt not lie, cheat, steal, or covet what is not yours.”

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