making local government more ethical
A government official's relationships -- to family, employer, business -- are very important to determining whether conflicts exist. Both the type and the directness of each relationship are also important.

Here again are the basic facts of the situation in Cincinnati that I will be using to touch on a variety of issues (see the previous blog post for a list of the issues). A council member works for a development company owned by his father and his uncle, but has no ownership interest in the firm. The firm owns or has development rights to nine properties within three blocks of a proposed streetcar line, which has come before the council on a few occasions, and will have to be finally approved by the council. The firm has also proposed a $100 million development project, which would involve tax increment financing (TIF) money and a tax abatement from the city. The development would, it appears, be built near the proposed streetcar route.


According to an iLind.net 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 southcoasttoday.com, 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.