making local government more ethical
On April 17, the District of Columbia ethics board filed recommendations for ethics reform with the council (see my blog post on the recommendations). Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie has introduced a bill that includes some of these recommendations (attached; see below). On October 7, a hearing on the bill will be held by the council's Committee on Government Operations.

For the most part, only the ethics board's miscellaneous recommendations are included in this bill. These were among its best recommendations. But the ethics program needs more than changes here and changes there, especially changes focused on enforcement. It needs to put the essential elements of a government ethics program into place. It's good to see that there is a commitment to continuing improvement, but it's not clear that there is a vision in the District of what the ethics program should be or of what the priorities are.

Here are the most important changes in the bill, with my comments.

Here's a what-not-to-do scenario of a sort that is too rarely included in ethics training. And yet it's one that could save a lot of officials, as well as ethics programs, a great deal of trouble, and help maintain public trust in local government.

According to an article in Tuesday's Miami Herald, a Miami commissioner, who was pulled over for a traffic violation, called the police chief, who called the police officer's commander, who called the officer. The commissioner was let off with a warning, which is what the officer says he would have done anyway. In other words, it was an unnecessary interference with the justice system by a high-level city official. This kind of minor abuse of office happens all the time.

Should the Josephson Institute's Five Principles of Public Ethics be enforceable by a local government? And if not, why not?

Article I of Allen Park, MI's charter consists of the five Josephson Institute principles, plus one more about "congeniality and productivity." Here are the five Josephson principles:
Yesterday, Oregon's Statesman Journal reported an interesting case that involves a number of important government ethics issues.

The state's Department of Corrections (DOC) deputy director allegedly used his position to influence an Oregon Corrections Enterprises (OCE) administrator into hiring his son and later giving him a higher salary and increased moving expenses.

Another OCE administrator reported these allegations to the state's Department of Justice (DOJ), which found no criminal wrongdoing. One wonders why the DOJ didn't turn the matter over to the state's ethics commission? After all, why would use of one's position to help one's son (prohibited by an ethics provision) be a crime?

Once again, the failure to work out in advance the relationship between an ethics commission and an inspector general's office has led to the locking of horns in the midst of an ethics proceeding. This time the location of the turf war is the District of Columbia.

Here's an interesting case study from Hartford, CT. The facts come from an NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters post from Friday and a report of the city's Chief Auditor dated June 27, 2013.

In October 2011, the city sold a piece of property to one of the city's merchants associations for $1. That day, the merchants association sold part of the property to Hartford Hospital, on which it planned to build a parking garage. The sale price was $500,000.

The sale was not put before the council's Planning & Economic Development Committee (or should it have been the planning and zoning commission?), as supposedly required by law, but is said to have gone straight to a public hearing (or was it just a public meeting?) and full council vote.