making local government more ethical

Save time and effort

by reading our introduction to local government ethics or using the City Ethics Model Code. Also check out our top ten lists of books, or movies.

Open Source Tools

A review of the various products of Carla's network fellowship at the Safra Center for Ethics @ Harvard University.

Review our Publications

We now have several publications available in various digital formats, including all major e-Reader formats! Please go HERE to view.

Session Materials

Session Notes for recent presentations by Carla Miller. e.g. #UNRIG 2018

Robert Wechsler

It is very common for public servants to say (or others to say for them) that they did not feel they had a true conflict or did not understand the law. And often this is true. But why so often do those same people often try to hide the fact that they did not disclose their conflict (or the extent of it) or do something about it until they had no other choice?

This is what happened recently in the New York City schools. According to...

Robert Wechsler

The big story this week from Largo (not Key Largo, but a West Coast town), Florida has a little bit of everything in it. I don't think any ethics code would deal with what occurred, but the situation certainly raises a number of important ethical issues in a municipal government context.

The story involves a city manager's announcement that he was going to change his gender, and, one week later, the city commission's vote (5 to 2) to put him on paid leave and begin the process of...

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...