making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler

The Supreme Court of California has handed down a decision that could have a significant impact on conflicts of interest cases. In The People v. Chacon, S125236 (February 8, 2007), the court found that Chacon, a former council member charged with a conflict of interest, could not use the defense that she had acted upon the advice of the city attorney. The advice concerned her entering into an employment contract as city...

Robert Wechsler

Here's an interesting, intelligent lay discussion about a particular alleged conflict of interest, and how to deal with local conflicts in general. It centers around an entry in a local-politics-oriented blog in Davis, California.

Robert Wechsler

Transparency is one of the most important elements of government ethics. And yet government ethics itself is often kept secret. Respect for the privacy of those investigated is given preference over the rights of residents to know what is going on. Ethics commissions often do not file annual reports and, when they are required to, the reports are rarely placed on a city's website. Ethics violations are considered embarrassments that should be swept under the rug, and ethics violators are...

Robert Wechsler

Fred Anderson's review of Gordon S. Wood's book Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books contains a passage on government ethics that gives an interesting context to our thoughts about it.

'Eighteenth-century British America ... was dominated socially and politically by 'gentlemen'' a comparatively tiny minority of men whose liberal education and public spirit, so it was thought, enabled them to perceive...

Robert Wechsler

One of the best ways to create a more ethical environment in local government is to have more people run for office. The more people who run for office, the more pressure is put on the closed world that many local governments preserve. This closed world is preserved through the lack of interest not only of voters, but also of potential candidates, who feel the only way to get elected is to know the right people in the right way. Few people know what the options are.

The League of...

Robert Wechsler

Either the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is the head of a vicious manhunt unknown since the days of J. Edgar Hoover, or Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent J. Fumo has not only failed to apologize for all that he has done, but he has, like so many unethical politicians before him, gone to the other extreme: denying every accusation and presenting himself as a victim....

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