making local government more ethical

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

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Session Materials

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

Robert Wechsler

One thing that's good about local government is that so much of it is done by volunteers. Volunteers aren't professional politicians. They have something better to do with their time.

Yes, most of them do. But for many, government service is central to what they do with the great bulk of their time.

An article in the Alamogordo, New Mexico Daily News (12/27/06) focuses on the most basic and, apparently,...

Robert Wechsler

The first antitrust probe of the municipal bond market began in November, and except for one article from Bloomberg, it has been entirely ignored.

According to the Bloomberg article, the Justice Department's Antitrust Division is looking for evidence of bid rigging, that is, collusion between banks and brokers to fix prices on guaranteed investment contracts (GICs). GICs are arrangements by...

Robert Wechsler

Local government attorneys have special conflict of interest problems. Should there be ethics rules particularly aimed toward them?

Here's a recent example of a situation that could have been prevented by such rules. In Reading, Pennsylvania, a city councilman asked the city's Board of Ethics for an advisory opinion concerning the fact that the Reading Area Water Authority had contracts with a company owned by the authority's executive director. The Board of Ethics determined that...

Robert Wechsler

Gerald Ford's passing revives the memory of one of the least remembered parts of the story of the Watergate affair: the pardon of Richard Nixon.

Remembering the pardon is important because it shows two important things about government ethics enforcement. First, how ethics rules are enforced is more important than the rules themselves. If rules are enforced with vengeance or if rules are enforced mechanically, they will not be respected except by those who desire vengeance instead of...

Robert Wechsler

In the November 5 issue of the New York Times Book Review, Michael Kinsley wrote, "The biggest flaw in our democracy is ... the enormous tolerance for intellectual dishonesty. Politicians are held to account for outright lies, but there seems to be no sanction against saying things you obviously don't believe. ... Yet one minor exercise in disingenuousness can easily...

Robert Wechsler

On November 15, 2006, David Damron of the Orlando Sentinel reported on Lawson Lamar, the local state attorney's call for "sweeping new ethics laws he said would limit the influence of developers and other special interests on city and county governments. In a Nov. 2 letter to city and county leaders in Orange and Osceola [counties], Lamar urged them to pass new laws that would dramatically limit campaign...

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