making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
A central dispute in the first group of charges brought against Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley involved whether he was required to disclose properties held by a company he owned, as long as he listed the company among his assets. Stapley felt this was not required.

It is important to list an official's real-estate holdings in town, so that when issues arise affecting those holdings, the public can know whether he should have recused himself. In other words, such annual...
Robert Wechsler
Both times Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley has had criminal charges brought against him, the counts included perjury charges for omissions on disclosure forms (2008 charges, 2009 charges). Is this the best or even an...
Robert Wechsler
Michael J. Sandel's famous introduction to ethical philosophy course at Harvard University, Justice, is becoming available on video both online and on many PBS stations across the country (dates and times vary; in some areas, the segments have just begun running; the first two segments are available online). This course should provide...
Robert Wechsler
Update: 9/30/09
I was asked to do a short interview on Phoenix's NPR station KJZZ yesterday, to provide a government ethics view on issues relating to the latest battle in the uncivil war among elected officials in Maricopa County, the county that includes Phoenix. My research into what is going on raised all sorts of interesting issues. I'll deal with them in multiple blog posts.

First, what happened. County Sheriff Joe Arpaio arrested County Supervisor (effectively...
Robert Wechsler
When a congressman goes after a lawyer whose organization filed an ethics complaint against him (in his capacity as Colorado's secretary of state), you know he is more interested in getting even than he is in the public interest. Getting even, however, is not what public servants should be doing.

According to an AP article yesterday, Congressman Mike Coffman filed a...
Robert Wechsler
Recusal is a touchy subject for government officials, for two principal reasons. One, withdrawing from a matter can appear to constitute an admission of misconduct. This is because so many people, and even ethics codes, consider it wrong to have a conflict. Actually, recusing oneself is a way of dealing responsibly with a conflict, and is the opposite of misconduct.

Two, raising the issue of a conflict can disclose information the official would rather keep personal. After all, the...