making local government more ethical

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Other Conflicts of Interests

This is the place to discuss additional conflict of interest provisions. Below are some comments added at the end of 100, but there are several more such provisions that can be found in ethics codes. What are your thoughts about and experiences with other conflict provisions? How do you think it is best to deal with city attorney conflicts when those conflicts are not dealt with clearly in their rules of professional conduct?

Additionial Comment to 100: Some codes, including the IMLA Code, make it an ethical duty to comply with laws, including criminal laws, discrimination and sexual harassment laws, and lobbying laws. The chronic violation of more minor laws and rules is also sometimes cited.

It is a difficult question whether to involve an ethics commission with every violation of law. Criminal and other undesirable activity by public servants certainly undermines the public trust in municipal government. But is the ethics process the right place to deal with such matters, or are they better dealt with by supervisors or, in the case of elected officials, by voters? The duty to comply with laws is not included here because, as long as the violation of other laws is made public, criminal and other proceedings should deal with them as well as the ethics process. However, if the violation is somehow hidden from the public, it might be appropriate for an ethics commission to make the violation public. Has anyone seen language to this effect?

I believe that cities should consider special ethical guidelines and rules for city attorneys. This is a complicated area, where it is sometimes not clear what it means to represent the city (the mayor, the council, the public interest in such things as truth, openness, ane fair process). I feel that guidelines are important not only for attorneys, who often do not recognize the special conflicts they face, but also to protect the public interest, which is harmed by city attorneys who ignore conflicts in the name of representing their client. Who their client is in each sort of instance needs to be clarified. Attorney conflicts of interest are covered by their state's disciplinary rules, but (i) these rules are enforced by lawyers rather than city residents; and (ii) these rules do not deal with the special conflicts that city attorneys are faced with. I would like to see a discussion about it, including recommended provisions to deal with the problems practitioners, both lawyers and non-lawyers, have witnessed.

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