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Ethics in the News

He was called the top federal cop in New Orleans. Jimmy Fox III was the DEA’s special agent in charge for the division and his name appears again and again in news stories about drug busts. The kind of guy and position we hold to the highest standards of excellence and ethics. So when his ethics were called into question, it was a big deal.

Agent Fox is accused of the kind of flip between a government sector job and a private position that is now illegal. The purpose of laws barring such jumps are in place to prevent someone from “pre-feathering” their nest by acting in favor of a group for which they will soon be employed. Employed at a much higher salary as a rule.

New Orleans is about to pick an overseer – a company to monitor our law enforcement agencies, agencies that have been accused of violating the constitutional rights of our citizens. It’s a big job.

Fox started a private security company, Fox Security Services, which is not uncommon for a soon-to-be ex-federal policeman. The questions came up when his company then partnered with KeyPoint Government Solutions. Keypoint put in a bid for the $9 million contract to monitor New Orlean’s consent decree. And that’s a problem.

Since the accusations surfaced, Fox has left the DEA and the company he partnered with was cut from consideration in an early round. Four companies remain in the running as of this writing. But that doesn’t get Fox off the hook, he could still be prosecuted for the alleged ethics lapse.

A question that always arises in these cases is whether we really should hold our public officials, and especially law enforcement officials, up to such a high standard, a standard where even a little step over the line can result in harsh punishment. But there’s a good reason to do so, and we only have to look over the border to Mexico to see just what lays at the bottom of the slippery slope of corruption. Money absolutely can make people do things they otherwise would avoid. And if the choice is to be too strict or too lenient, the best choice is to err on the side of over-enforcement, not under.

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