making local government more ethical

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Contractors and Vendors

Robert Wechsler
"Wheeling" is a term I just discovered. The context is that NJ governor Chris Christie made a campaign promise to deal with "wheeling," and then failed to, according to a South Jersey Times editorial yesterday. Here's how the editorial describes the practice (many NJ local governments prohibit or limit contributions from their contractors):...
Robert Wechsler
Here's a good-news story from Delray Beach, FL. But first the bad news. According to an op-ed by Rhonda Swan this week in the Sun-Sentinel, in 2012 the Palm Beach County inspector general "warned Delray that extending its contract with Waste Management until 2021 without seeking bids would violate state and city rules that require...
Robert Wechsler
Here's a good way to get around local government transparency laws. If you want an appointee's activities to remain secret, let him be hired by a private entity, give money to the private entity sufficient to pay his salary, and don't communicate with him via government-owned computers or smartphones.

You might think that this would only occur with relatively obscure individuals and entities, aides who can do dirty work that an agency wants to keep hush-hush, hired by a social...
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
The big news in the government ethics world this week is C.J. Roberts' opinion in the McCutcheon case. The biggest problem with this opinion is its author's continuation of an unrealistic picture of how large campaign contributions work. Roberts acts as if access were not an important goal, and as if the only problematic relationship between contributor and elected official involved quid pro...

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