making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Are loans to businesses that do business with a city sufficient to create a conflict of interest? This is the question that has been batted around recently in Washington, D.C., according to an article in today's Washington Post.

A bank...
Robert Wechsler
Special districts are an important and growing form of local government, and yet they often fly beneath the radar. In fact, I've only mentioned them once in my blog. And most citizens have no idea what they are or that they exist in their area (I myself can't name one in my area). For this reason, conflicts of interest involving special districts also remain, for the most part, invisible.

Special districts are set up...
Robert Wechsler
In ethics codes, campaign contributions are sacrosanct. Nearly every ethics code excepts them from the definition of "gift," "personal benefit," "anything of value," or whatever they call money and goods given to government officials and employees. Limiting campaign contributions is a matter for campaign finance laws, because there is no conflict of interest involved.

Or is there? It is a conflict of interest to accept (and, not often enough, to give) money when there is an...
Robert Wechsler

There are municipal ethics issues that will never find their way into any ethics code, but which should certainly be covered in ethics training courses. Many of these issues involve the relationship between government and businesses.

If there were no money to be made in and through municipal government, there would be far less need for ethics programs. Power does corrupt, but it's no accident that corruption so often involves relations with developers and contractors. It's also no...