making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
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...
Robert Wechsler
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...
Robert Wechsler
Failure to disclose or to recuse oneself, even when it is not legally required, can lead to some big headaches, as can be seen in Portland, OR, where a city commissioner voted on a grant to a non-profit organization where his girlfriend works. Also interesting in this case is the commissioner's use of personal ethics rather than professional, government ethics in making his judgment calls.

According to...
Robert Wechsler
According to an article in yesterday's Morning Journal, the Law Director of Lorain, OH (a city of 70,000), advising a council member, said, “If his employer had a direct financial interest, he would have a conflict. But it does not.”

A council member who was vice president of a regional firefighters association (a union), although no longer a firefighter...
Robert Wechsler
Many government lawyers feel that the rules of professional conduct are sufficient to keep them ethical. Because of this, they sometimes seek to be excluded from an ethics commission's jurisdiction (see a recent blog post) and more often argue that the attorney discipline system takes precedence. An...
Robert Wechsler
San Francisco's Conflict of Interest code has an unusual provision about voting on one's own conduct or position. You would think this provision goes without saying, but I can assure you it does not.
    §3.210. Voting on Own Character or Conduct.
    (a) Prohibition. No officer or employee of the City and County shall knowingly vote on or attempt to influence...