making local government more ethical

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Conflicts

Robert Wechsler
How many wrongs does it take to make a right?

According to a Sun-Sentinel article, a county commissioner in Broward County, home of Ft. Lauderdale, resigned on Tuesday after being arrested on seven counts of...
Robert Wechsler
On Independence Day weekend, it's worth remembering that independence does not come cheap, and that there are some things that are more important than independence.

One of those things is the public trust. There is a serious cost to our society when government officials place their independence from ethics enforcement above the public trust, that is, when government officials insist on legislative immunity. And there is a cost to officials, too:  their trial not by a neutral body in...
Robert Wechsler
You be the judge. According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a board member of a Georgia-based insurance company set up ten PACs in Alabama that together gave $120,000 — ten times the legal limit — to a candidate for Georgia insurance commissioner. A complaint was filed with the state ethics commission (not only is there a...
Robert Wechsler
As serious as the appearance of impropriety that arises from the council member's family firm seeking TIF money and a tax abatement from the city is the fact that any developer or member of a developer's family sitting on a city council faces not just the occasional ethical controversy, as has been the case in this situation. Such an individual faces an ongoing series of possible conflicts, most of which do not lead to complaints, requests for advisory opinions, or controversies.

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Robert Wechsler
The family firm's $100 million development takes this matter beyond ordinary conflicts, due to state and local laws on officials entering into public contracts with their city. What makes this issue far more serious than an ordinary conflict, which can be dealt with responsibly through recusal, is that both state and local law require the official to choose between his government position and an interest in a public contract. It is this far more drastic remedy that has recently escalated...
Robert Wechsler
In determining whether a conflict or preferential treatment might exist, another aspect of benefits, in addition to how definite or direct they are, is their proportionality. Stated in the form of a question, Is the benefit at issue just one of many equivalent benefits to a sizeable group, such as senior citizens or property owners, or is it especially large?

The council member took the position that he and his family firm benefited no more than others who owned or had development...

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