Corruption Undermines The Public & Their Government

alden_wolfeBy Legislator Alden H. Wolfe (D – Montebello)
Chair, Rockland County Legislature

Our government is built on two core foundations – a system of laws, and the public trust. Laws exist to dictate the basic way in which governments are to function, and prescribe the limits of government that those in office need to adhere to. Maintaining the public trust, however, is not as simple as even following those basic laws.

The very origins of government itself are rooted in a social contract; a sacred bond between the government and governed. Our first governments were literally contracts in which people trusted each other to select leaders from among themselves who they believed would have their best interests at heart.

Over time, detailed contracts were done away with and were replaced by an electoral system in which trust was placed in leaders of government through the votes that people cast. The public trust does not need to be spelled out in paper or transferred through contracts to remain such a vital part of what allows those of us in office to govern with the consent of the governed, but today it is just as critical to the structural integrity of government as it was when those contracts were written 400 years ago.

When just one elected official violates the law and loses the trust of the public they swore an oath to serve, a dark and heavy pall is cast over all elected officials, regardless of party or position. The public becomes more cynical, and suspicions deepen. In that sense, corruption of any kind is a scourge that can devastate government and the public itself.

It is sad that an institution as great as government can be crippled by the actions of any one individual. We must do more to prevent the abuse of public office from within, such as stripping corrupt officials of their pensions, but we must also understand that the vast majority of elected officials serve the public faithfully and with honor.

We cannot allow the actions of one to diminish the incredible work that government performs on a daily basis. Government keeps our streets safe and paved, our courts in order with legal representation to those who can’t afford it, our parks open for families and centers open for our seniors, and so much more. Government has the power to heal social ills and give a voice to those not heard. That is the work we pursue each and every day.

We may come from different parties and different places, but corruption strikes at the heart of what honest Republican and Democratic officials alike are in office for. While we may differ on issues, we agree on one common principle: Our task is monumental, and the mantle of our responsibility is heavy, but neither is more important than the trust and confidence of the public who put us in office.

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