making local government more ethical

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Ethics Environments

Robert Wechsler
New Orleans must have the largest number of civic organizations that focus on government ethics, and the greatest amount of activity among them. There is the Metropolitan Crime Commission, a watchdog group that has filed ethics complaints (see my two blog posts that mention them:  1 ...
Robert Wechsler
In recent years, Florida's elected officials have shown a great deal of leadership in the field of unethical and criminal misconduct. The state has a weak state ethics commission, which has jurisdiction over local officials, and until recently only one good local government ethics program, in Miami/Dade County (Jacksonville and Palm Beach County joined this list with ethics reform last year). The major voices in government ethics in Florida have, sadly, been grand juries.

The need...
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...
Robert Wechsler
Louisiana Incarcerated is an investigative series that ran recently in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. It is a story rooted in an extremely poor ethics environment that, despite vaunted ethics reforms (that many, including me, have criticized), does not seem to have changed.

The series has introduced into popular culture the term "honey hole," one sheriff's description of the cells in his prison, which is the...
Robert Wechsler
Update: December 20, 2012 (see below)

It looks like outsourcing may finally come to local government ethics. No, this doesn't mean that a city's hotline will be picked up by someone in India (in fact, hotlines in some localities are already outsourced to corporations). What it means is that the ongoing failure of scandal-ridden San Bernardino County (CA) to come up with an ethics program (see...
Robert Wechsler
Across the nation, there have been numerous occasions when local government officials oppose disclosure requirements, sometimes even the most minimal ones (for example, the name of an elected official’s employer). Arguments are made about privacy, identity theft, and overweening government. There is talk about rights, but never about obligations.

But the bottom-line argument is that if you require financial disclosure, no one will volunteer for local boards and commissions. This is...

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