making local government more ethical

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Complicity and Knowledge

Robert Wechsler
I had a conversation with a developer the other day, which got me thinking in what I think are interesting ways about unwritten land use rules.

Pressures on Developers
One thing the developer emphasized is how much pressure buyers of parcels often put on a developer to cut through all the land use procedures, which can take many months or even years. On the other side are officials who have a way of doing things that can speed up the process. These ways are part of doing...
Robert Wechsler
You know you're doing a pretty poor job with government ethics when a grand jury recommends that you be all but abolished. This is the case with the Broward County School Board, according to a report published on Frday. It concludes, on p. 48:
    Unfortunately based on the history of this Board as an institution, we have no confIdence in their ability to...
Robert Wechsler
Local party committees have a great deal of power. Most of the people we vote for have been selected and, where allowed by law, endorsed by local party committees. Most of the people who are appointed to boards and commmissions have also been approved by local party committees. In most places, they determine who runs our communities.

One of the principal roles a political party has, at least in theory, is assuring the public that its candidates have been screened in some valuable...
Robert Wechsler
Usually, in government ethics situations, local officials can get away with doing nothing, especially when the conflict isn't theirs. Few ethics codes have provisions prohibiting complicity in and requiring the reporting of others' ethics violations (see the City Ethics Model Code's provision for a provision that covers both).

That's why I found it refreshing to come across an old...
Robert Wechsler
The boom years of the Oughts were very good to Gwinnett County, a suburban Atlanta county of 800,000 that grew by a third in the last decade. But boom times are rarely good for local government ethics, and Gwinnett County appears to be no exception. A grand jury report unsealed in October (a searchable copy is attached; see below) found a series of land acquisitions by the county at above market price (even after the...
Robert Wechsler
Insurance is a big area for abuse in local government. It usually constitutes a sizeable dollar percentage of a town's contracts, and an insurance broker who works in government can use his or her position to get the insurance business of companies that do or want to do business with the town. And insurance is an area few people understand, and which no department, office, or board may be responsible for overseeing.

According to...

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