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IPFW ethics professor to join county ethics commission

Schwab will help correct flaws exposed by the Paul Moss case

Friday, January 4, 2013 - 8:37 am

An ethics professor will fill the vacancy on the Allen County Ethics Commission created by a former member's fiery resignation during the most controversial and protracted case in the board's seven-year history.

The County Commissioners on Friday were expected to name Abraham P. Schwab of the IPFW Philosophy Department as the replacement for former Allen County Circuit Judge Tom Ryan, who resigned after storming out of the Commission's Oct. 29 meeting and calling its investigation of then-County Council member Paul Moss a “witch hunt.”

Schwab earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Drake University and master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy and ethics from Loyola University in Chicago. He lists biological and professional ethics and moral philosophy among his areas of interests, teaches a variety of ethics courses and is expected to offer suggestions as the county work to correct flaws in the ethics ordinance exposed by the Moss case, Commissioner Nelson Peters said.

“(Schwab) has an understanding of ethics from an academic perspective and a cerebral sense of right and wrong,” said Peters, who added that the commissioners approached Schwab on the basis of a recommendation from a former county department head. “He's already taken a look at the ordinance and made suggestions (about changes).”

Peters, who wrote the original 2005 ordinance, has also discussed possible amendments with Commission member Wendy Stein and will have a similar conversation with member Tom Hardin next week. And although Peters said the commission's five-month-long investigation of a complaint against Moss achieved the ordinance's chief goal – transparency – it also revealed room for improvement.

What those changes might be remains to be seen, but Peters said Schwab, Stein and Hardin agree the Moss case took too much time. “And that wasn't fair to (commission members), the people preparing the cases or the individual being reviewed,” Peters said. A former county employee filed a complaint after Moss telephoned Sheriff Ken Fries during a June traffic stop. Moss said he was simply trying to expedite the process, not avoid a blood-alcohol test.

The board dismissed the complaint in November, without ruling on its merits, after Moss made a written apology.

But such a case was never envisioned while writing the policy, said Peters, who intended mostly to cover gifts and other gratuities. As a result, the ordinance's definition of a conflict of interest and even its purpose may have to be expanded and penalties more clearly defined, especially as they apply to elected officials.

More mundane changes such as term limits and selection of a chair may also be considered, Peters said.

Peters said the revised policy could be ready for adoption by late January.

The three-member board of commissions Friday is also expected to select Therese Brown as its president for 2013, a position Peters held in 2012.