making local government more ethical

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Ethics Environments

Robert Wechsler
In February, I wrote seven blog posts applying some of the concepts and practices of nonviolence to the field of government ethics. This is effectively an eighth post. This time the inspiration is not a book, but the latest issue of the journal New Routes, entitled "Peace Without Borders: Regional Peacebuilding in...
Robert Wechsler
It's been a few years since I wrote about the problems with the partisan, or "bipartisan," administration of local elections. One thing that arisen from this year's election is a strong feeling that it is high time that New York City's Board of Elections be reformed. Hopefully, this process will get a great deal of publicity, and become a guide for other communities.

The principal problem in New York City, as in many...
Robert Wechsler
Several years ago, one of my town's department heads was arrested for embezzlement of funds. When someone had reported to the first selectman (effectively the mayor) that this was going on, the first selectman went to the department head and asked him if the report was true. The department head denied it. And the matter was dropped.

Did the first selectman have an obligation to the public not to accept his department head's word, but instead dig deeper to find out the truth, or have...
Robert Wechsler
Independent agencies, especially those with lots of money to spend and contracts to enter into, require not just ethics policies, but a comprehensive, independent ethics program. This rarely acknowledged fact has been made clear once again by an external audit of an agency that proved completely unable to self-regulate its officials' and employees' conflicts of interest. The agency is the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which...
Robert Wechsler
A front-page article in today's New York Times looks on a conflict situation that is usually ignored:  the unpaid adviser who effectively sells her inside, often confidential information to her clients. She is not technically a lobbyist, because her communications with officials are not intended to push for her clients' goals (although it is impossible to...
Robert Wechsler

I don't talk much in this blog or in my book Local Government Ethics Programs about character. However, there is another approach to government ethics that is sometimes referred to as "the character approach." For example, the Josephson Institute trains local officials on the six pillars of character. There are ethics codes, too, that take a character approach to...

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