There is no such thing as a confidential investigation by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. From the Courier Journal:
“Saying the state ethics commission leaked confidential information, the attorney general's office yesterday asked it to stop interviewing people subpoenaed by a special grand jury.”
Now I’m not saying that Commission members or staff called the local radio station and started a conversation with “guess what I know?”
But the way the Ethics Commission does its’ investigations there is no way to maintain confidentiality.
First, most of the time investigations by the Commission do not result in anything more serious than a rap across the knuckles.
From the 2002 Guide to the Code of Ethics:
“The Commission may find probable cause of a violation during a preliminary investigation, but, due to mitigating circumstances (such as lack of financial gain to the employee, lack of loss to the state, and lack of impact on public confidence) may confidentially reprimand the alleged violator rather than initiate an administrative proceeding.”
Second, an investigation is often more a result of office politics than ethical violations.
Hypothetical case - (more or less):
We have an employee, we’ll call him John, who in the process of doing his job has made another employee, and we’ll call him Weasel, look like the idiot. Now Weasel may be an idiot, but he is still a weasel.
So Weasel goes to the Ethics Commission and “anonymously” reports that John is profiting from his position in state government. Weasel also gives the Commission about 50 names of people who know about this.
Weasel does not sign a complaint, he doesn’t want any credit, and he is just doing his job and will remain anonymous. The Commission then investigates the alleged violation upon its own motion, thus shielding Weasel.
Then the investigators from the Ethics Commission go to the 50 people Weasel has said know about this and say to them “We’ve had a report that John was violating Ethics Laws and profiting from his position. What do you know about it?”
Of course we all know that if you tell 50 people a secret, like John is being investigate by the Ethics Commission, all 50 will keep that secret.
Meanwhile John is digging through documentation, providing the Commission with every shred of information he thinks might be relevant.
Six months later John gets a letter from Jill LeMaster that states in effect that even though John did nothing wrong and the allegations by Weasel were baseless he had better watch his step because the Commission was keeping an eye on him.
The Ethics Commission never tells the 50 people they talked to that John was totally innocent of all the allegations. Of course this kind of a witch hunt will certainly help John in his career.
Now there is one bit of information that will remain confidential in this little fable. John will never be able to find out the identity of Weasel. Open records requests will be refused. Because the information from Weasel was anonymous they have to keep his name confidential.
This keeps John from dragging Weasel into court for defamation of character.