making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler

Before I got around to putting up a blog entry on the ethics mess in Louisiana, it took a turn for the worse. What started as two legislators protecting the jobs, respectively, of their father and their brother, has turned into a full-fledged constitutional battle that could undermine the concept of recusal for conflicts of interest nationwide.

As it is now, ethics codes usually require that legislators, state and municipal, refrain from participating or voting in matters where they...

Robert Wechsler

No, the class exception does not except classy people from ethics codes. It excepts people from recusing themselves when the interests they have that would be affected by an act or decision are similar to a broad class of people. The biggest class is, of course, taxpayers. Municipal officials can vote for budgets even though their taxes are affected by it. Other classes excepted without controversy include homeowners, renters, members of a pension plan, and business owners. But the smaller...

Robert Wechsler

'No Retreat, No Surrender: One Man's Fight.' If only this were the title of a civil rights leader's memoir. But no civil rights leader would talk about 'one' man's fight; it was a group effort. Only someone who falsely sees himself as walking into a sunset alone after a gunfight would use that subtitle for his memoir.

The memoir is Tom DeLay's. It is a title chosen by someone who sees himself as an unrepentant victim.

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Robert Wechsler

The City Ethics Model Ethics Code includes as an aspirational code the American Society for Professional Administration's (ASPA) Code of Ethics. This is highly unusual, but not unprecedented. One precedent is the Georgia Municipal Association's City of Ethics program, developed in 1999.

The Georgia program requires municipalities to do two things in order to qualify. First, it must adopt a resolution establishing five ethical principles...

Robert Wechsler

Ethics problems and the need for ethics programs are the stuff of cities and, perhaps, larger towns, or so most people think. In small towns, everyone knows everyone else, and people can't get away with unethical conduct. And as for corruption, there simply aren't enough zeros in the town's budget. There's not much to learn from small towns, in terms of municipal ethics. Right?

Middletown Springs, Vermont is a town of 823 (2000 census), and yet its town meeting voted on a proposed...

Robert Wechsler

Connecticut House Speaker James A. Amann has been receiving a great deal of criticism for asking lobbyists for contributions to the charity he works for as a paid fundraiser (including criticism from me: see my blog entry on fundraising problems). He has insisted that his solicitations are legal, and they probably are, since it cannot be proven that he directly received part of the money contributed (however, he did receive $67,500 last year...