making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Here's a tough call. It's a few weeks before a primary election, and you (a local ethics commission member or staff member) learn that a candidate has violated an ethics code provision, and hidden it via a false disclosure. Do you act or do you sit on your hands until after the election?

Often this sort of problem arises when a complaint is filed by an opposing candidate or party member, that is, when the filing is politically motivated. But what should an EC do when there is no...
Robert Wechsler
End runs around ethics and campaign finance laws are one of my favorite topics to write about. A sizeable percentage of the creative energies of government officials and their attorneys seems to go into coming up with ways of getting around these laws. And then arguing that such laws are of little value since you can't plug loopholes as fast as they can invent them.

The Center for Governmental Studies in California has just...
Robert Wechsler
Ethics reform aimed at political opponents is a good way to undermine the whole idea of ethics reform. This is what is happening in San Jose.

San Jose starts off with an odd ethics program. Title 12: Ethics Provisions does not even have a conflict of interest provision, nor does the city have an ethics commission. It is primarily a campaign finance and lobbying law, with a gift...
Robert Wechsler
It's been a year since the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL), the association of state and local government ethics professionals, met in Cook County, IL. But the day before COGEL meets in Scottdale, AZ, it's time to take another look at one of America's most unethical counties, which includes Chicago.

This time the focus is on the county's townships. The problem is summed up professionally in the abstract to a paper published last year. It's called...
Robert Wechsler
"You can buy Supreme Court races" under the current system, said Rep. Pedro Colón (D-Milwaukee). "The sign is outside: 'This court is for sale.'" (from an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week)

Nobody wants this to be said, at least nobody but four of the seven Wisconsin Supreme Court justices, according to...
Robert Wechsler
While on the subject of pension boards in California, it's worth mentioning a new California bill, Bill 1584, signed into law on October 18. It is an amendment to the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (Section 22212.5 of the Education Code, Sections 20098 and 31528 of the Government Code, with the addition of Sections 7508.5, 7513.8, 7513.85, 7513.9, and 7513.95 to...