making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
How does a council deal with conflicts in a company town? My first response to this would be, are there still company towns? Well, certainly not as many as there used to be, but probably most of the ones that remain are college towns.

That's the case in Loma Linda, according to an article in yesterday's San Bernardino Sun. Four of...
Robert Wechsler
I recently read a fascinating classic study by Albert O. Hirschman (Institute of Advanced Study) called Shifting Involvements: Private Interest and Public Action (1982). This book focuses on the various tensions between private consumption and public action. It only touches on government ethics issues,...
Robert Wechsler
Yesterday, the Seattle City Council passed amendments to the city's ethics code, based on recommendations from the city's ethics commission, according to an article in the West Seattle ...
Robert Wechsler
One of the biggest problems with local government lobbyists is that they invariably have close contacts with those who run the city or county. So whenever they are involved in a matter, especially the bidding of large contracts, there is a strong appearance of impropriety, and people don't trust the bidding process.

This is why some local governments place a ban on the lobbying of government officials with respect to large contracts and developments. Phoenix is one local government...
Robert Wechsler
Here are three different recusal case studies:

Public Recusal Is Not Enough
One of the most important things to emphasize about recusal is that recusal at a meeting is not enough. Recusal is supposed to mean withdrawal from involvement in any aspect of a matter where an official has a conflict of interest. Recusal at a meeting is only withdrawal from the public part of a matter. If the official continues to be involved with the matter behind the scenes, it is, in...
Robert Wechsler
In the midst of a big corruption probe, a pair of back-and-forth ethics complaints filed with a nearly toothless ethics commission in El Paso doesn't seem like much. But it does sheds some light on how much El Paso government is about the players rather than the citizens. And it touches on some issues that are important everywhere, including the use of lawsuits to cripple ethics commissions, legal fees for ethics...