making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
One problem in government ethics is that when conflict situations are dealt with responsibly, there is rarely a record of them. They pass quietly, failing to end up in the newspaper, at an ethics commission, or in court. So generally we're stuck learning from the times when conflict situations are dealt with irresponsibly. One of these situations, in Wausau, Wisconsin, made it to court, and a decision this week by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin sets the facts out...
Robert Wechsler
Once again, a local government official's attempt to use a charity to get around campaign finance laws has blown up in his face. According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, an Atlanta council member was fined $25,000 by a state court for failing to register a foundation (named after himself) and failing to maintain financial records for it.

Robert Wechsler
Update: October 16, 2009 (see below)
In his New York Times legal affairs column today, Adam Liptak focused on what is known as "honest services fraud," which is actually part of a definition of "scheme or artifice to defraud" in the federal mail and wire fraud statute (before reading on, please read my earlier blog post...
Robert Wechsler
Here's an ugly little case study, based on an ethics complaint filed in September in Hillborough County, the county which includes Tampa. According to the complaint (attached; see below), the county administrator wanted to give herself and the county attorney a 1% salary increase. Salary increases in the county must be approved by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). The county administrator asked the county attorney if the raises would be legal without such approval, and the county...
Robert Wechsler
There are limits on the legislative immunity of local government officials, according to a decision yesterday by the Baltimore Circuit Court in the Dixon case (attached; see below), involving the mayor of Baltimore at the time she was president of the city council.

The court rejected Dixon's motion to dismiss a second round of perjury charges (I discussed the motion in a recent...
Robert Wechsler
The next round of memoranda have been filed by the parties to the Dixon case, where the Baltimore mayor (though the case relates to her activities as council president) is raising a defense of legislative immunity in a criminal proceeding for perjury (relating to failure to disclose) to keep out evidence that she knew that a developer who gave her many gifts was involved in a development with the city.

Her first defense of legislative immunity led to the indictment being dismissed,...