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Robert Wechsler

North Carolina's 2006 state ethics reform turned out the lights, according to an article in yesterday's Charlotte Observer. The new system provides that there will be no public hearings before the new state ethics commission unless the accused asks for one. In many cases, when a case is dismissed or a reprimand is given, no one will ever know.

Hugh Stevens, a Raleigh attorney, is quoted as saying, very aptly, '...

Robert Wechsler

Lobbyists, lawmakers, and charitable fundraising form a triangle that is both virtuous and harmful.

Community leaders like to be identified with charitable groups, and charitable groups like to be identified with community leaders. It's a natural combination. But what is not natural, or even easy to see, is the line between charitable fundraising and campaign fundraising, when lobbyists, contractors, and developers enter into the picture.

The typical problem involves a mayor's...

Robert Wechsler

Here's a difficult case involving a board of education's attorney.

The board of education in a wealthy, medium-sized Connecticut town is represented by a large law firm that represents 80 boards of education across the state (half the state's total). That same firm is representing a developer that is suing the town's planning and zoning commission, and it appears to be a controversial matter.

There is no doubt that the state's rules of professional conduct allow a firm to...

Robert Wechsler

With the first quotation of the week, let's start at the beginning:

We become just by doing just acts. -Aristotle

Robert Wechsler

Understatement: After one county district attorney recused himself from prosecuting the man who hired him for his job, the neighboring county district attorney accepted the case, despite the fact that he leased office space and had accepted a thousand-dollar campaign contribution from the suspect's nephew, who happened to be listed as the suspect's defense attorney. 'To suggest that that's a conflict of interest is to suggest that I have an integrity problem, which is simply not the...

Robert Wechsler

It is difficult to be an ethical politician or administrator, or even a citizen, without a basic understanding of logic. It is also difficult to appreciate others' unethical conduct without a basic understanding of logic.

By logic I do not mean the opposite of irrationality, but rather critical thinking, and specifically an understanding of logical fallacies. Logical fallacies are probably the most frequent form of unethical conduct in municipal government. They involve the conscious...

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