making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
The most complicating (sic) part of conflicts of interest is the being interested part. When one is interested in something, not necessarily in a financial way, it can be very hard to get the emotional distance necessary to analyze a conflict properly. In other words, it's hard for many people to admit the possibility that they may have a conflict and then to determine rationally what should be done about it.

A case in point involves the village attorney of Mokena, IL.
Robert Wechsler
One argument rarely made for effective government ethics programs is that they will prevent government officials from being prosecuted for "honest services fraud."

Honest services fraud is to bribery what manslaughter is to murder. Sort of. By this I mean that many officials accused of bribery plead down to honest services fraud, a lesser, but still serious crime (the maximum sentence is 20 years).

Here's the statutory definition of honest services fraud (18 U.S.C. §...
Robert Wechsler
Rarely does an ethics commission get a clear chance to show it has no favoritism. The Nevada Commission on Ethics will soon get that chance.

The Nevada senator who raised a legislative immunity defense last year against the commission was accused of a conflict of interest due to his position as president of the Las Vegas chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), a nonunion contractors association...
Robert Wechsler
Thumbs up for the Virginia House of Delegates General Laws Committee. According to an editorial in today's Charlottesville Daily Progress, this House committee greatly improved a Senate bill on disclosure of conflicts of...
Robert Wechsler
The conclusion of an op-ed column in today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune about the mess in Venice that I wrote about yesterday made me realize that I had not yet written about one of the most important problems in government ethics:  process vs. substance.

A quick recap: this evening, the Venice council will...
Robert Wechsler
Update below
Recently, I wrote a bit about the odd Venice, FL ethics program, which puts the city manager completely in charge. Now Venice is making news with respect to open government issues, and this has led to a very interesting conflict of interest issue.

According to an article in Friday's Sarasota...