making local government more ethical

Funding Ethics Commissions

As I state in my comments to section 207 of the model code, cutting the funding of ethics commissions is a popular way for politicians to prevent investigations from happening. Therefore, ethics reformers are always looking for new ways to ensure funding.

In Oregon, legislators decided to turn to local governments as a dedicated source of funding of an ethics commission that oversees local government officials.

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One of the first things local governments complain about when it comes to states requiring them to have their own ethics codes and commissions is that this is an unfunded mandate.

Okay, that's a good point. But in Oregon, according to an article in the Oregonian,local governments are also complaining about being charged for a service the state will be providing them. One thing they are arguing is that charging public bodies based on the number of public officials is unfair. But since it is providing oversight over these very officials, it sounds as fair as any other allocation formula.

Local governments are also arguing that the state has more money. They were successful in stopping funding in 2005, and they'll probably be successful this time, as well.

And I doubt that they will say anything about the fact that the state ethics commission cannot afford to investigate the very people who oppose this dedicated source of funding.

Robert Wechsler
Director of Research, City Ethics
rwechsler@cityethics.org