making local government more ethical

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Advisory Opinions

Robert Wechsler
2013 was not a particularly good year for government ethics. This blog started out by noting how little Tennessee's model code had done for its municipalities' ethics programs. Early-year hopes for improvement of New Jersey's terrible state local government ethics program were dashed by the program's October request to renew its rules without any changes whatsoever.

Ethics Reform
There was not much in the way of ethics reform in 2013...
Robert Wechsler
In 2008, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine established a special task force to take a look at the state's local government ethics program. In September 2010, the task force filed a report that recommended substantial changes to the program (attached; see below). Nothing was done.

The state's local government ethics rules were set to expire in September of this year. The Local Finance Board, which administers the...
Robert Wechsler
In a blog post last week, I listed the many reasons why city and county attorneys should not be providing ethics advice. One of those reasons was that "legal advice and ethics advice require different skill sets." But I limited this part of my analysis to saying that "A legal adviser sticks to the letter of the law, and is always on the lookout for...
Robert Wechsler
A month ago, I wrote about some problems Honolulu's ethics program was having with the corporation counsel. The problems have continued. The big issue this last week has been the corporation counsel's provision of ethics advice. So far, the argument has primarily taken place in the form of memos.

The corporation counsel responded in an October 25 memo to questions directed to it by the city...
Robert Wechsler
A recent Miami Herald article describes a case that embodies a number of important government ethics issues, including the conflict issues that involve local schools of higher education, gifts to officials' relatives and the officials' knowledge of them, an ethics program's jurisdiction over these relatives, and whether government attorneys should provide...
Robert Wechsler
The long-running Carrigan case (Carrigan I, that is) may have finally come to an end. And it's a very good end. After the U.S. Supreme Court threw out Carrigan's absurd argument that a council member has a First Amendment free speech right to vote on legislative matters where he is conflicted, the Nevada Supreme Court concluded that, if a council member chooses not to seek ethics advice and votes on a matter involving someone with whom he has a special relationship, he cannot say...