making local government more ethical
Thanks to Texas Watchdog, "an independent, nonpartisan entity [that] serves as a government watchdog and training center where reporters, bloggers and activists of any stripe learn how to uncover waste, fraud and corruption in state and local governments," the financial disclosure forms of Houston's council members are now available online.

In Jacksonville-- where City Ethics' founder, Carla Miller, is the Ethics Officer -- the ethics commission is taking the lead in ethics reform, according to an article in the Jacksonville Daily Record.

Read the WHOLE story
It may be midsummer, but it's still a busy season for local government ethics. Here's how a few local governments are dealing with ethics reform.

Palm Beach County commissioners agreed to create an inspector general and ethics commission, according to an article in the Palm Beach Post. The commission says it will ask voters in November 2010 whether they want these entities to cover all officials in the county, including school boards and municipal governments.

Update below
The only thing worse than stacking ethics commissions with politically active, and apparently loyal, members is refusing to renew the term of a member who has been a vocal advocate of government ethics, in other words, a thorn in the side of officials who do not follow the local government's ethics codes. Clever officials know that one or two members of any board can have a strong effect on what the board does.

I recently wrote about this latter situation when it arose in San Diego. It turns out that the mayor's refusal to re-appoint the EC's vocal chair was followed by a council member's nomination of a former paid campaign staffer to the position, according to an article in yesterday's San Diego Union-Tribune. The council member is currently under investigation by the EC.

The great majority of local governments that think they have no state or local law or rules regarding local officials' conflicts of interest do actually have a conflict of interest rule.

This rule is hidden in Robert's Rules, which is usually the set of rules under which local government bodies operate. Here is what it says in §45 (Voting Procedure), in the first subsection on Rights and Obligations in Voting (I'm quoting from the Perseus Publishing tenth edition, pp.394-395):

Open Records Requests and Ethics Proceedings
In an unusual twist on the confidentiality of ethics proceedings, counsel for the Colorado Springs mayor's former client, the person who gave rise to the mayor's apparent conflict of interest, has made an open records request for all documents related to the ethics proceeding against the mayor, according to an article in the Colorado Springs Gazette. Counsel for the complainant noted, “Is there any irony in the attorney for Marshall asking the city to turn the cards up when it seems that Mr. Marshall, in all his dealings, has preferred confidentiality commitments?" In fact, the complaint was filed to bring transparency to a secret deal (see my blog post on this).