making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
In March I wrote a blog post about a situation in La Crosse, Wisconsin where the mayor brought his father, who runs a refuse business, to meet with a county official about a county solid waste assessment. A council member sought advice from the city attorney rather than the city ethics board, and then the mayor said he would put the matter before the ethics board. His father's company has a refuse...
Robert Wechsler
I hate to see people resign with statements such as this, as typical as they are:
    While I have been assured that I have violated no existing code, ordinance or statute, I cannot permit my integrity — and, by insinuation, Councilwoman Hermann’s — to be attacked.
Sadly, these are the words of a former Kansas City (MO) ethics commission member, according to an article in the...
Robert Wechsler
A failure to deal responsibly with one's conflicts of interest has ramifications beyond the loss of public trust, and all the serious problems that arise from this loss. This failure can also lead to litigation and the overturning of actions by local government officials.

A good example of this can be seen in the case of Rissler v. Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals, decided by the West...
Robert Wechsler
Note: I completely rewrote this post after Mark Davies set me straight about the state law on which disclosure forms an official must file.

Poor draftsmanship of ethics codes can cause serious ethical problems. This is certainly true of New York Municipal Law §811(1)(b), which put Suffolk...
Robert Wechsler
How many wrongs does it take to make a right?

According to a Sun-Sentinel article, a county commissioner in Broward County, home of Ft. Lauderdale, resigned on Tuesday after being arrested on seven counts of...
Robert Wechsler
"Ceremonial function" is one of those terms that is found in many local government ethics codes (but not the City Ethics Model Code). However, it is rarely defined except, occasionally, in advisory opinions. The term is generally used to exclude certain gifts from being either disclosed or considered gifts at all. The result is lots of free, undisclosed tickets to sporting events, especially for mayors...