making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Government ethics policies sometimes clash. The most common clash involving ethics commissions is with transparency laws.

Like any government body, ethics commissions would prefer not to discuss many sorts of matters in public, both to protect the parties involved and because it is uncomfortable to discuss many ethics matters in public. Because counsel is present during most such discussions, ECs (and their lawyers) often feel that such discussions are privileged. There are also...
Robert Wechsler
"I must say regretfully that ... what I have heard is a statement I can only describe as arrogant, unrepentant, and a smear on this institution.  Everybody does not do it.  Members of this body attempt, by word and deed, publicly and privately, to take great care with their personal conduct as it might be perceived by the American people.  That is equally true for Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.  I have found that to be the only unifying thread in this body.  For the...
Robert Wechsler
According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, Michigan's Attorney General is seeking stronger financial and gift disclosure requirements for state officials, and he wants these requirements to apply to local officials, as well. But there's a catch:  they would only apply to local elected officials who are paid at least $65,000...
Robert Wechsler
Two former public works employees are in the news this week for misconduct.

According to an article in the Tulsa World, a former Tulsa field engineering officer who sat on the Professional Consulting Services Selection Committee pleaded guilty to bribery...
Robert Wechsler
Last's week's Economist provides a look at a new form of local government ethics enforcement in China, which exists because local governments have failed to institute ethics programs. That form of enforcement is murder, and it appears to be increasingly accepted by the courts.

The article presents the example of the local Communist Party secretary of Lishi, who had citizens'...
Robert Wechsler
If you want to encourage unethical behavior, give individual officials independent power over the sorts of decisions where people have the greatest incentive to tempt officials, and officials are in the best position to enforce pay-to-play.

I described a good example of this in a recent blog post about a Chicago alderman whose realtor wife did very well with companies given zoning changes by the husband. According...