making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
“It’s much to-do about not much. I’m trying to run a city, and you’re worried about people’s relationships?” These are the words of Mount Vernon, NY mayor Ernest Davis, who is the subject of IRS and FBI investigations, and now an investigation by the city's ethics board, according to an article in Wednesday's Journal News.

Robert Wechsler

Self-Evaluation and Getting One's Bearings
To change oneself (and to support change in one's environment), self-evaluation is required. Before you change, you have to have your bearings. The problem is that, unlike evaluation of others, self-evaluation is rarely rational. It is more commonly emotional, taking "the rosiest possible interpretation of the facts," according to the Chip and Dan Heath in their book...
Robert Wechsler
Transparency in government should not be limited only to officials. Disclosure rules should also apply to everyone seeking special benefits from government, such as contracts, permits, or grants. For one thing, without transparency on both sides of every transaction, it is impossible for the public or officials to know if there are any conflicts that particular officials need to deal with.

One popular way to get around transparency is the shell company. A company can easily be set...
Robert Wechsler
In a quality government ethics program, every official and employee involved in a matter publicly discloses any possible conflict and withdraws from the matter. But what if a city or county does not have a quality government ethics program? How is the public to know whether conflicts are being handled responsibly?

According to an article in today's New Haven (CT) ...
Robert Wechsler
A situation that arose recently in Atlanta shows how important it is to require applicant disclosure of relationships with local government officials, and to hold applicants accountable. According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta's ethics office dismissed allegations that a council member had sponsored and voted on a no-bid contract when...