making local government more ethical

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Complaints/ Investigations/Hearings

Robert Wechsler
The Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution protects activities within the "legislative sphere" from being heard outside the legislature, and prevents the introduction of evidence of legislative activity in any such hearing. A recent brief from the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in S.E.C. v. Ways and Means Committee argues (on pp. 30, 34-37) that...
Robert Wechsler
A recent action by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) against the city of Harvey, IL, a poor city of 30,000 just south of Chicago, deals with a different sort of fiduciary duty than the usual government ethics case. In a complaint dated June 24, 2014 (attached; see below), the SEC alleges that the city's comptroller acted as financial adviser in three bond issues for a hotel development, diverted some of the funds to himself, and also diverted funds to the city's general fund. The...
Robert Wechsler
A week ago, I wrote about a poorly written provision in Denver's ethics code, and the danger it poses not only to Denver, but also elsewhere, since local governments in Colorado and in other states are apt to look at the ethics code of such a large, well-respected city (although now that its highness has two meanings, who knows).

On a happier note, this post will look at an excellent decision...
Robert Wechsler
It all started with a private meeting among three members of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority board, according to an article last week in the Orlando Sentinel. The subject of the informal meeting was the ouster of the executive director, which took place at the next formal meeting.

But after an...
Robert Wechsler
You're a government official who has had an ethics complaint filed against you. You want it go away. What do you do? According to an article in The Missoulian this weekend, there may be a new arrow in your quiver:  file a court suit demanding dismissal of the complaint on the grounds of a...
Robert Wechsler
Sometimes even a wrongheaded ethics complaint can do good, by showing how wrongheaded a town's government ethics program is.

According to an editorial in The Day this week, the head of a local political party, Independence for Montville, filed an ethics complaint alleging that a former council member who owns a hot dog stand pushed to have the town's street vendor law changed so that street...