making local government more ethical

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Enforcement/Penalties

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...
Robert Wechsler
They have various names, such as councils of governments (COGs), joint powers authorities (JPAs), and regional councils or commissions, but whatever names they have, these local government associations are often left outside of both local and state government ethics programs. And yet, as the term "joint powers authorities" implies, they do wield power and do spend or affect the spending of money, often huge amounts of money in transportation, water, and other construction projects.

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Robert Wechsler
Providing incentives to attract companies or get them to expand their operations in a city or county has always been a controversial issue. Incentives are seen as necessary to attract, keep, or expand jobs locally, but they can also be an unnecessary way to get local governments into bidding wars (or what is presented to them as a bidding war) with other local governments, to the benefit of companies who are going to build or expand no matter what local governments offer.

Providing...
Robert Wechsler
I recently read Judith N. Shklar's book The Faces of Injustice (Yale U.P., 1990). This excellent essay about the difference between misfortune and injustice would not appear to have much to do with government ethics. But there turns out to be much relevant...

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