making local government more ethical
I don’t care what state you are talking about, you are always going to have one or two people who are going to do the wrong thing. That’s human life. But the bottom line is: I can tell you that my members who are in the House of Representatives are here for the right reason, and I am just a little cautious to make a regulation for one person.

Reaction of Rhode Island House Speaker William J. Murphy to Gov. Carcieri's suggestion that the state legislature place a constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot, giving the public a chance to give the state ethics commission full jurisdiction over state legislators, despite the Speech in Debate Clause (see yesterday's blog post). Rhode Island has a long history of so many bad apples, they changed the metaphor to a local fruit:  the cranberry bog. The House Speaker doesn't appear to have kept up. From today's Providence Journal

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has reached a decision on the legislative immunity case (Irons v. RI Ethics Commission) involving the state ethics commission and the state legislature. As expected, its majority opinion (it was a 3-1 split) concluded that the state's Speech in Debate Clause 100% overrides the 1986 constitutional amendment that granted the state ethics commission full authority over state legislators. Here's how the majority presented the conflict between the constitutional provisions:

It's not easy to publicize ethical and unethical activity in a responsible manner. And when this is done, it can sometimes lead to false attacks on the the legitimacy of the organization doing the publicizing. This is what happened this week in Colorado.

The Politicization of Officials Selecting Ethics Commission Members
People should not be political footballs, and ethics commission members even moreso. But that's what can happen when officials are allowed to select ethics commission members. According to an article in yesterday's Tulsa World, an ethics advisory committee member who asked that the mayor be investigated by the committee reached the end of his term some time ago. The mayor wants to replace him, and the council wants to keep him. So the mayor nominates, and the council turns the nominees down. And both accuse the other of infantilism.

In her comment to my blog post on a Michigan recusal matter, Catherine Mullhaupt of the Michigan Townships Association not only pointed out the effect of a women's property rights act on local government conflict of interest law (see my blog post on this), but also pointed out a Michigan law (42.7(6)) that requires charter township board members to vote, except on a vote to appoint oneself to a township office. Only a unanimous vote of the board can allow a board member to abstain.

The New York City Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) recently issued an advisory opinion (attached, see below) on the subject of conflicts involving city council discretionary funds, a topic I wrote about last year. This is a model advisory opinion, especially in the way it provides a number of scenarios to which it applies the city's relevant ethics provisions. The opinion goes beyond any single request for advice to provide advice for as great a range of possible situations as the staff could imagine.