making local government more ethical

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Conflicts

Robert Wechsler
I hate to see people resign with statements such as this, as typical as they are:
    While I have been assured that I have violated no existing code, ordinance or statute, I cannot permit my integrity — and, by insinuation, Councilwoman Hermann’s — to be attacked.
Sadly, these are the words of a former Kansas City (MO) ethics commission member, according to an article in the...
Robert Wechsler
It's important to be careful when it comes to conflicts of interest, but it's also important not to be too careful. When you're too careful, you send the wrong message to members of the community and you miseducate them about government ethics.

This is what happened this week in my own town of North Haven, Connecticut. According to an article in the July 16 North Haven Citizen, the first...
Robert Wechsler
Here's an interesting modern spin on an old-fashioned nepotism/conflict of interest matter. According to an article in Tuesday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the husband of a member of a charter school's board was hired to teach at the charter school, and there is disagreement over whether there is a conflict or not.

One twist is that the charter school's board does not have the power to hire...
Robert Wechsler
A failure to deal responsibly with one's conflicts of interest has ramifications beyond the loss of public trust, and all the serious problems that arise from this loss. This failure can also lead to litigation and the overturning of actions by local government officials.

A good example of this can be seen in the case of Rissler v. Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals, decided by the West...
Robert Wechsler
There's an interesting issue at the heart of a judicial inquiry into possible misconduct by the mayor of Mississauga, Ontario. The council sought the inquiry to “investigate any supposed breach of trust or other misconduct of a Member of Council, an employee of the municipality or person having a contract with the municipality” and to inquire into “any matter connected with the good government of the municipality or the conduct of any part of its public business." In short, it is an open-ended...
Robert Wechsler
There is nothing more important in local government ethics than timely, independent, professional ethics advice. And there is no bigger problem in local government ethics than poor ethics advice, especially that given by local government attorneys who (1) do not have a full understanding of government ethics, especially the fact that its rules are minimum requirements, which means that a strict interpretation of the language is inappropriate in providing ethics advice, (2) are political...

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