making local government more ethical

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Complaints/ Investigations/Hearings

Robert Wechsler
Florida Senate Bill 606 (attached; see below) is one of the worst ethics reform bills I have ever read. But it is far worse than the words it consists of. What makes it worse is that, with respect to laws that affect local officials, it is largely the work of the Florida League of Cities (this was confirmed to me by representatives of both the League and state senator Jeff Clemens, the bill's sponsor). It is...
Robert Wechsler
A passing statement in yesterday's New York Times article on the continuously unfolding story of NJ governor Chris Christie's bullying led me to wonder why it is that indictments based on sting operations focus only on the government officials who give in to the sting's temptations. Not only is this not fair to the many officials who withstand the temptations, but it also...
Robert Wechsler
Who should be allowed to file an ethics complaint? Certainly any citizen of the jurisdiction. But what about multiple citizens of the jurisdiction? Should an ethics commission exclude a complaint from them?

This is what happened recently in Brookfield, CT, according to an article in the News-Times. A petition signed by a few hundred people in town was...
Robert Wechsler
Here's a new role for an ethics commission:  mediator in a dispute between other government oversight offices. According to an article in the Advocate last week, New Orleans' ethics board has appointed two of its members to mediate in an ongoing dispute between the city's Inspector General and its new...
Robert Wechsler
Settlements of ethics proceedings are usually a good thing for everyone involved. They save officials the cost of a proceeding and prevent officials from digging themselves deeper and deeper into defenses, denials, and cover-ups, which are usually more harmful to the public trust than any ethics violation. They save taxpayers the cost of a proceeding and of possible appeals. They save the community the pain of going through an extended fight over an ethics violation, which can hurt its...
Robert Wechsler
In a New York Times column today, Michael Powell has unearthed an ugly-looking government ethics situation in New Jersey involving apparent misuse of government ethics authority to win a vote.

The fact situation is fairly typical. What is not typical is the way it has been handled. A gas company is seeking permission to put a...

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