making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Yesterday, I wrote a blog post about intimidation, but I forgot to mention what might be the greatest fear among citizens relating to their local government:  the fear that if they speak out against local officials, especially school officials, it will affect their school-age children.

I was reminded of this fear by...
Robert Wechsler
In March I wrote a blog post about a situation in La Crosse, Wisconsin where the mayor brought his father, who runs a refuse business, to meet with a county official about a county solid waste assessment. A council member sought advice from the city attorney rather than the city ethics board, and then the mayor said he would put the matter before the ethics board. His father's company has a refuse...
Robert Wechsler
According to an article in the Tidewater News, a Franklin (VA) council member said at his first council meeting that he felt the city should stop charging interest on delinquent property taxes, since so many taxpayers are under financial duress. The council member happens to be one of those delinquent taxpayers.

The newspaper calls on him not to participate in any discussions on...
Robert Wechsler
Update: August 2, 2010 (see below)

I've long said that conflicts of interest should not be limited to financial interests or, in other terms, situations where a possible financial benefit or loss is involved (see, for example, this 2009 blog post). My position is confirmed by the twisted yet necessary logic in...
Robert Wechsler
Update: January 11, 2011 (see below)

According to a July 2 unpublished opinion by Judge Flanagan of the Washoe County (NV) district court, Carrigan v. Commission on Ethics of the State of Nevada (attached; see below), a city council member has a first amendment free speech right to vote where there is not "an actual, existing conflict of interest." (p. 13)

Due process also comes into play in the opinion:  "In the absence of an actual, existing conflict of...
Robert Wechsler
In researching a recent ethics complaint in Harlingen, Texas (pop. 67,000), I came across some disturbing ethics matters. The most disturbing can be seen from the minutes of the city development corporation's September 29, 2009 meeting (pp. 3-4).

Brendan Hall, the former city attorney, wanted to remain...