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Confidential Information

Robert Wechsler
A situation in the city of Alameda, CA once again points out that government officials dealing with the possibly unethical conduct of other government officials is not a good thing.

According to an article today in the San Francisco Chronicle, the city of Alameda asked the city's outside counsel to investigate whether a council member had disclosed confidential...
Robert Wechsler
While I was away on vacation, the new, quasi-independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) was in the news a lot.

Going Outside of Congress
First, it did something that made it appear more than the paper tiger I called it a year ago. According to a New York Times editorial last week, when the OCE's investigation of contributions to...
Robert Wechsler
This is the seventh in a series of blog posts inspired by reading Susan Neiman’s book Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists (Princeton, 2008). Neiman’s discussion of Daniel Ellsberg, the government official who let us know about the Pentagon Papers, shows the effect that access to confidential information has on...
Robert Wechsler
Let me take a logical approach to the topic of government ethics proceeding confidentiality before I look at what has been happening in Utah this last week.

    Government ethics is intended to protect the public from officials acting in their own interest rather than in the public interest.

    Acting like this is considered unethical conduct.

    It is in the interest of officials to hide their unethical conduct from the public.

    It is in the public interest to know about

    ...
Robert Wechsler
Assuming you can learn a lot from the mistakes made in local government ethics matters in cities and towns other than your own, there is a great deal to learn from a simple ethics matter that, through a number of mistakes, oversights and, apparently, partisanship has been turned into a big issue in the city of Torrington (CT; pop. 36,000). There's also a lesson to be learned about the confidentiality of ethics commission decisions...
Robert Wechsler
It's not an unfamiliar story. Council candidates promise ethics reform. They are elected, and actually fulfill their promises with a proposed ethics ordinance. But there's not really much to the proposed ethics ordinance, and there's no enforcement mechanism.

This is what is happening in Yorba Linda (pop. 71,000), just outside Anaheim. The...

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