making local government more ethical

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Advisory Opinions

Robert Wechsler
Recently, the Jackson County (MO) county legislature decided to exclude not only county legislature members from its new ethics code, but also county attorneys. This exception is hidden square in the middle of a 58-page code:

This chapter applies to all public servants, as the term is defined in this chapter, except licensed attorneys at law acting in the course and scope of their duties as such, who are subject...
Robert Wechsler
I've always felt torn with respect to whether citizens should be allowed to ask for advisory opinions that have to do with local government officials, as can be seen in the advisory opinion provision and comments in the City Ethics Model Code Project.

On the one hand, advisory opinions are generally seen as dealing with the requestor's conduct, which I think is why most ethics codes limit requests to city...
Robert Wechsler
So much of government ethics involves the contrast, and sometimes the collision, between ethics and law. Too often the personal aspect of government ethics is overlooked. All three get twisted together in a very simple matter that occurred last week in the Escondido (CA) city council, according to an article in the North County Times.
Robert Wechsler
As I wrote in a blog entry nearly two years ago, Memphis has broken records in terms of convicted public officials. But its mayor of seventeen years, Willie Herenton, has stood above it all. At least until now.

One result of the many convictions in Memphis was a new ethics ordinance in 2007 (not directly accessible via the city website search mechanism)...
Robert Wechsler
Are loans to businesses that do business with a city sufficient to create a conflict of interest? This is the question that has been batted around recently in Washington, D.C., according to an article in today's Washington Post.

A bank...