making local government more ethical
The spread of corruption from local to state to national is often ignored. And when corruption is discovered, there is much litigation. In fact, it's often hard to see corruption clearly here in the U.S. That's why the occasional look at corruption abroad is useful, like looking in an only slightly distorted mirror.

Vernon, CA, the subject of several blog posts here (click here for the latest), has been the object of criminal investigations, but now local officials are starting to get creative in response to the most creatively imagined city in the U.S.

A week ago, Transparency International published its fifteenth annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which scores countries on the basis of a variety of independent reports on and surveys about corruption, including those from the World Bank and other development banks, and those surveying journalists, business executives, and international organization staff.

Here in the U.S., the big news is that, for the first time, the U.S. has fallen out of the top 20 least corrupt nations, mainly due, it appears, to the effect of money in politics and the information that came out due to the financial crisis. The U.S. fell from 18 to 22, just behind Chile and just ahead of Uruguay.

Consultants often fall between the cracks of government ethics. They are contractors, but professionals rather than suppliers or construction companies, and they often act just like government officials, only they're not on the payroll. And yet the ethics rules that apply to government officials often do not apply to consultants. Often, ethics commissions don't even have jurisdiction over consultants.

An audit report done by the Los Angeles City Controller for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) just came out. It was commissioned after a consultant acting as a government employee allegedly funneled business to a company he co-owned. The school district, which had done a huge school construction program, wanted to see if there were other conflicts of interest. It calls its consultants CPs, that is, contract professionals.

Citizen indifference and lack of participation is the most damaging result of a lack of trust in government officials. One reason is that a vicious circle is created. When government officials are untrustworthy, and especially when they use intimidation to create the sort of fear that severely cuts into citizen participation, there are fewer people to watch over them on behalf of the public. This makes government officials feel more fearless and act more self-serving and more openly intimidating. And so on.

As an article in yesterday's Los Angeles Times points out, even when local politics is intensely fought amongst the few, low voter participation allows individuals to act in their personal interest rather than in the public interest.
    I chose to specialize in local government ethics because this is where it all starts. This is where the individuals who become our representatives experience their first unethical environment, become team players, learn the rules of the game, and begin to feel a special entitlement.

    One good thing about election time is that we sometimes get the back stories of individuals running for higher office. We get to see how they started. One such individual is Carl Paladino, a candidate for governor of New York State.

    A Local Developer Regulating Local Development
    According to an editorial in today's New York Times, although Paladino "was an owner of several downtown parking lots [in Buffalo], he won a seat on the city’s parking board, resigning in 1994 amid charges of conflicts of interest. He still serves on the board of the nonprofit corporation [Buffalo Civic Auto Ramps, Inc. (BCAR)]  that manages parking lots for the city."