making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Reading Garry Wills' A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government (1999) made me think about how anti- and pro-government feelings jive with views on government ethics.

People who believe that government is a good way to deal with community-wide matters usually believe that the public...
Robert Wechsler
The next round of memoranda have been filed by the parties to the Dixon case, where the Baltimore mayor (though the case relates to her activities as council president) is raising a defense of legislative immunity in a criminal proceeding for perjury (relating to failure to disclose) to keep out evidence that she knew that a developer who gave her many gifts was involved in a development with the city.

Her first defense of legislative immunity led to the indictment being dismissed,...
Robert Wechsler
When I heard about the ACORN sting, when two people posing as pimp and prostitute asked for help in getting a loan to open a brothel, I thought: what would happen if a local government official and a prostitute visited a local government attorney to ask for help in giving the prostitute a contract, so that the local government, rather than the official, could pay for her services?

One big difference is that it is not legal to open a brothel, but it might be legal to use your office...
Robert Wechsler
It's official. According to an article in yesterday's Salt Lake City Tribune, a comprehensive ethics reform petition has been okayed for distribution, with the goal of placing it on the November 2010 ballot. That requires 95,000 signatures on a 21-page petition that is far from easy reading.

Robert Wechsler
A week ago I wrote a blog post about preferential treatment, emphasizing that the way to distinguish preferential treatment from ordinary decisions and transactions, where someone is commonly preferred over others, is by whether the treatment is fair and whether the regular process is followed.

Fairness is the principal issue in a preferential treatment question...
Robert Wechsler
One of the more interesting battles in the civil war among Maricopa County elected officials is the Battle of the Civil Division. When the county attorney indicted County Supervisor Don Stapley in December 2008, the board of supervisors decided to take away the county attorney's civil division and create a separate county civil law department.

The Conflict of Representing and Prosecuting Officials
The board's argument is that the county attorney ignored the conflict it...