Okla. Health Department First State Agency to Adopt New Ethics Guidelines

Article excerpt

"Non omne quod licet honestum est."

That Latin phrase was the driving force behind an announcement made Monday by the Oklahoma State Department of Health regarding a first-of-its-kind ethics handbook provided to employees of the much- maligned state agency.

The phrase, translated to mean "not everything that is permitted is honest," was offered by Attorney General Drew Edmondson as advice for public servants when weighing the merits of actions. He said it was important for state employees and elected officials to take into account how the public or even their own mothers would respond to those decisions.

"If you follow your instincts, I'm sure you will do the right thing most of the time," Edmondson said at the press conference announcing the ethics handbook.

Toni Frioux, assistant deputy health commissioner of community health services at the health department, said the environment at the agency and within the state itself that had bred some questionable - if not illegal - activities was a thing of the past. She said the handbook would help those who may have been ignorant of guidelines and procedures.

"We are in a totally different environment," Frioux said.

The previous environment was one of ghost employees, embezzlement charges and bribery charges against a deputy commissioner who oversaw nursing homes.

Gordon Deckert, a board member for the Health Department since 1991, said he was no longer receiving anonymous calls from employees who were facing ethical challenges that included legislators asking for favors. …