making local government more ethical

You are here


Robert Wechsler
"The deep problem with the system was a kind of moral inertia. So long as it served the narrow self-interests of everyone inside it, no one on the inside would ever seek to change it, no matter how corrupt or sinister it became — though even to use words like 'corrupt' or 'sinister' made serious people uncomfortable, so Katsuyama avoided them. Maybe his biggest concern, when he spoke to city residents, was that he be seen as just another nut with a conspiracy theory."

This seems...
Robert Wechsler
The subject of Margaret Sullivan's Public Editor column in yesterday's New York Times is the corrupting influence of journalists getting too close to their sources. In other words, in the language of C.J. Roberts, "ingratiation and access." With respect to local government ethics, the subject would be the corrupting influence of relationships between local...
Robert Wechsler
Consent agendas, also known as consent calendars, are an excellent way to get around the disclosure of conflicts (and, as Dallas showed us in 2011, to amend ethics provisions without a discussion (see my blog post on this)).

A consent agenda is a way to deal, in a single motion and a single vote, with routine, non-controversial items, in order...
Robert Wechsler
What should be done when an official withdraws from participation in a matter and gives a reason for withdrawal that appears to be false? Why would an official provide a false reason for withdrawal? There are at least two possible reasons:  (1) the real conflict situation would look worse than the given conflict situation, or (2) the real reason is that the official doesn't want to anger the people on either side of the matter, that is, the official really wants to abstain, but doesn't want to...
Robert Wechsler
I'm currently reading a classic political science book about urban politics, Who Governs? by Robert Dahl. Who governs? is a question that is not asked often enough in local government ethics. It is not enough for an ethics program to have jurisdiction over officials and employees. It needs to have jurisdiction over those who actually govern the community, no matter what their position. I raised this issue in...
Robert Wechsler
Why is it so hard for officials, personally or in drafting ethics codes, to let an ethics commission do its work, dismissing complaints that lack validity (i.e., that do not state an ethics violation by someone under the ethics program's jurisdiction or for which there is insufficient evidence)? Why, instead, do they create and take advantage of non-substantive considerations for dismissal of complaints in order to take revenge on complainants?

I ask this question after reading...