Lawyers and confidentiality can both be serious obstacles to the effectiveness of a
government ethics program. An ethics case in Trumbull, CT provides a
good look at how this can happen.
Attorneys on an Ethics Commission
According to an
article in the Trumbull Times last week
article in the Connecticut Post
a few days before it, four of
the six attorneys on the Trumbull ethics commission had to withdraw
from participation in the case due to conflicts of interest. In fact, six of the
seven members are attorneys (two of the seven members are alternate
Many high-level officials believe that attorneys make the best EC members, because they understand laws, and ethics codes are laws. However, other than government officials, attorneys are the individuals most
likely to have conflicts that prevent them from participating in ethics proceedings. An attorney selected by high-level officials is even more likely than the average attorney to be conflicted in an ethics
proceeding involving officials (especially the businesspeople and professionals who sit on town boards) or the businesspeople, and their attorneys, who are seeking special
benefits from the government.