making local government more ethical

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Ethics Codes

Robert Wechsler
Court decisions, especially when combined with criminal enforcement of ethics violations, can be very harmful to local government ethics. The court in a Monterey County case involving a serious §1090 conflict of interest matter that officials were not only aware of, but appear to have helped create, has used two recent California court decisions to limit prosecution to...
Robert Wechsler
Yesterday's blog post discussed the law giving California's Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) authority over §1090 of the state code, which deals with contract-related conflicts of interest and applies to both local and state officials. Knowing little about this section, which stands outside the state's ethics code (known as the Political Reform Act), I did a...
Robert Wechsler
There is a great deal of misunderstanding concerning the difference between a conflict of interest and a gift. It appears that most people consider them two completely different things. In fact, they represent two kinds of conflicts, pre-existing conflicts and conflicts that are created by an event. The confusion between the two characterizes a situation that led to an ethics complaint in Los Angeles.

According to...
Robert Wechsler
Richard W. Painter's Getting the Government America Deserves: How Ethics Reform Can Make a Difference (Oxford U.P., 2009) may be about the federal executive branch ethics program, but this excellent book also has a lot to offer to local government ethics. This is the first of three blog posts about this book, focusing on Painter's recommendations for ethics reform and how...
Robert Wechsler
One of the most frequent mistakes in the drafting of a government ethics code is prohibiting officials from having conflicts of interest. There is nothing wrong with an official having a conflict of interest. There is only something wrong with an official creating a conflict or failing to deal responsibly with a pre-existing conflict. As can be seen in Massachusetts, where such a prohibition has made big waves, the prohibition of having a conflict can cause serious...
Robert Wechsler
On April 17, the District of Columbia ethics board filed recommendations for ethics reform with the council (see my blog post on the recommendations). Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie has introduced a bill that includes some of these recommendations (attached; see below). On...

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