making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
According to an article in today's Wall Street Journal, business organizations are arguing that government employee unions have a conflict of interest that should prevent them from supporting candidates for office. "Public-sector unions have a guaranteed source of revenue—you and me as taxpayers," the executive director of the U.S. Chamber of...
Robert Wechsler
Indirect benefits are one of the most problematic issues in government ethics. Usually, indirect benefits relate to an official's relationships, that is, where the official receives not a direct financial benefit, but satisfaction or an indirect benefit from a financial benefit going instead to a relative, employer, customer, or substantial political supporter.

But there are other indirect benefits, for example, benefits that go not to a business that employs the official or his...
Robert Wechsler
Recusal is one of the least well understood aspects of government ethics. Most people seem to think it is limited to abstaining on a vote where you have a conflict of interest, and many ethics codes define it that way, if they require recusal at all.

But abstention is not sufficient for many reasons. One of them is at the center of a court case in New York State, Eastern...
Robert Wechsler
Over-reaction to an alleged ethics violation can be as bad as under-reaction. In Bergen County, NJ, after one of seven freeholders (the county council), at his first meeting, voted to continue to keep county funds in a bank owned by the parent of the company he works for, an ethics complaint was filed and then the county administrator called on all county offices to take their money out of the bank, according to...
Robert Wechsler
I chose to specialize in local government ethics because this is where it all starts. This is where the individuals who become our representatives experience their first unethical environment, become team players, learn the rules of the game, and begin to feel a special entitlement.

One good thing about election time is that we sometimes get the back stories of individuals running for higher office. We get to see how they started. One such individual is Carl Paladino, a candidate...
Robert Wechsler
The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday ran a fascinating article about Dallas County's district attorney. It caught my interest because he was accused of a conflict of interest, but accusing this district attorney of a conflict of interest is like accusing King Kong of being big.

The Dallas County DA is the county's chief law...