making local government more ethical
According to an blog post this week, the chair of the Honolulu Ethics Commission resigned on April 22. Although his letter of resignation provides no cause for the resignation, the chair apparently said that he had been asked to assist a mayoral candidate's campaign and did not want to violate the ethics code.

However, the blog post provides a great deal of evidence that the chair had already violated the ethics code provision on ethics commission member involvement in campaigns:
    A week ago, I wrote about the weaknesses of an ethics initiative in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. This week, in neighboring Lackawanna County, the responses to a March 25 state ethics commission decision has shown truly irresponsible handling of one man's conflicts in two school districts.

    Is the partisanship of local government elections a government ethics issue? I think it is, partly.

    A Good Discussion of a Possible Conflict
    It's good to see ethics discussions where both sides have good arguments to make. According to an article yesterday on, the selectmen of Lakeville, MA were discussing the possible hiring of an electrical inspector who does electrical work for the town of 10,000 south of Boston.

    Last September, I wrote a blog post about an ethics initiative in Palm Beach County, Florida. A response to numerous scandals, it featured an ethics pledge, primarily for government officials, and a successful attempt to get an independent ethics commission and inspector general for the county government. I felt that the business leaders in Palm Beach County who led the initiative had a good understanding of government ethics, and took a fresh, effective approach.

    I cannot say the same thing about a copycat initiative in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, the home of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, called Ethics Awareness. Its ethics initiative, led by a business group and an ethics institute at Misericordia University, is also a response to numerous scandals (see my blog post on the most infamous one), but it lacks the focus of the Palm Beach initiative.

    Back in January, I wrote about the California Supreme Court's decision in a criminal conflict of interest prosecution against members of a San Diego pension board. In that post, I wrote about how to solve the problem that led to the case's dismissal: local government employees being considered a class (like businesspeople or senior citizens) that is excepted from the conflict of interest provision (in my solution, a council member over 65 can vote on a senior citizen center, but a council member who is a town employee cannot vote on a town employee pension matter).

    Last month, a federal district court reached a decision on the same matter. However, it was prosecuted under the honest services statute (I discussed the statute here). The court found the honest services statute too vague for prosecution in this case, since it was not a matter of local government officials putting money in their pockets, even though they benefited from their decisions along with other local government employees.