LA CROSSE — A nonpartisan organization that recently launched in La Crosse is looking to promote ethical leadership among elected officials.
The idea for the nonprofit organization, LeaderEthics-Wisconsin, developed from conversations the group's executive director, Lee Rasch, had with community leaders after he retired as president of Western Technical College, the La Crosse Tribune reported .
"It starts with the average citizen expecting it," Rasch said. "In the political arena, we don't expect it, and voters don't demand it; therefore, we're not seeing it."
Rasch said the need for such a group is apparent "when you think of Gallup studies that show our trust in government is arguably at an all-time low."
The nonprofit won't be accepting donations, and will instead run entirely on the $25 annual membership dues and the efforts of volunteers. Membership is open to anyone.
Members will receive regular newsletters that'll detail examples of ethical leadership on the part of elected officials and instances of questionable performance.
A trio of retired judges, Dale Pasell, Tom Lister and David Peterson, will evaluate the newsletters before publication to ensure they're fair and unbiased. Questionable content will be removed from the newsletter.
"When you have ethics in your name, you have to be operating with integrity," Rasch said. "The theory is we don't want to have biased information going to our members so that it will bias how they vote."
About 40 people attended the group's recent inaugural chapter meeting in downtown La Crosse. Rasch said he isn't sure where the next chapter meeting will be held, but he said he'd like to see the La Crosse chapter going strong with a target of at least 200 members. He hopes the group sets a good example before the organization expands.
"I think there's something special about La Crosse," said Sam Scinta, a chapter chair, who teaches political science at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. "The idea is we've got to set the tone here in La Crosse. We've got to get it right and provide the example for what these other chapters look like, so there's a bit of pressure but it's pretty exciting."