making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
A number of important issues arise from a case before the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board (ECDB) last week. The issues include: (1) how to treat an inadequate complaint; (2) how to treat a complainant in a proceeding, and (3) what to do when an ethics code and rules may be inadequate to a situation where there is a strong appearance of impropriety.

The case involves a member of the state Board of Regents, which...
Robert Wechsler
(Note: This post has been revised, based on a response from Steve Berlin, executive director of Chicago's ethics board. I had made the silly assumption that the underlined language in the ethics reform ordinance was new. It turns out that much of that language has been there for some time. So I've deleted some comments and made changes to others.)

Recently, the Chicago council passed a series of ethics reforms (attached; see below) in response to the first report of the city'...
Robert Wechsler
I believe that an ethics commission/ethics officer approach to local government ethics is far better than an inspector general approach. The simultaneous creation of an EC/EO approach in Palm Beach County, FL and an IG approach in neighboring Broward County provides a small laboratory for seeing which works better.

Thankfully, Brittany Wallman of the Sun-Sentinel has compared the two approaches in two articles,...
Robert Wechsler
It's always disheartening to see high-level officials misuse an ethics program for the sake of personal revenge or, as the official says in the case I'm looking at here, to get "my name cleared."

According to an article yesterday in the Austin Statesman, the last mayor recently filed two ethics complaints against the mayor who defeated...
Robert Wechsler
Should an ethics violation be an impediment to future jobs? In general, I don't think so, especially when the violation was handled responsibly, that is, without a denial, cover-up, and costly, unnecessary investigation and hearing process. But sometimes ethics violations involve much more than the failure to deal responsibly with a conflict.

This appears to be true of the new communications director for the Allentown (PA) school district, who, according to...
Robert Wechsler
Defining what lobbying is is one of the most important parts of a lobbying law. Not only are many definitions of lobbying unclear or full of loopholes, but it is difficult to get even a good definition across, because the popular concept of lobbying is different from what lobbying really is.

This can be clearly seen in what has recently happened in the Orange County, FL school district. According to...