making local government more ethical

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Ethics Officers

Robert Wechsler
Does the "broken windows" theory, as first stated in a 1982 Atlantic essay by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, apply to government ethics? The theory says that, if small things like broken windows are ignored, people will think that no one cares and, therefore, they will break more windows and move on to more serious misconduct. It's about setting norms and sending signals...
Robert Wechsler


One of the most important figures in local government ethics passed away last week at the young age of 61, after a relapse of ovarian cancer. Virginia "Ginny" Looney was Atlanta's first Ethics Officer. She was appointed by Mayor Shirley Franklin, who conceived and pushed through the ethics program back in 2002.

Ginny helped turn Franklin's ideas and an inadequate ethics code into an excellent ethics program. She held the ground against attempts to weaken the program,...
Robert Wechsler
You're a government official who has had an ethics complaint filed against you. You want it go away. What do you do? According to an article in The Missoulian this weekend, there may be a new arrow in your quiver:  file a court suit demanding dismissal of the complaint on the grounds of a...
Robert Wechsler
Laura Hartman and Crina Archer's essay "False Beliefs, Partial Truths: Personal Myths and Ethical Blind Spots" (January 2012) provides a valuable new view on how our blind spots hamper our handling of ethical matters.

Double Blindness
Their first valuable observation is that, "[i]f left uninterrogated or concealed, ethical blind spots operate as perceptual...
Robert Wechsler
According to an article this week in the Sun-Sentinel, the Broward County, FL commission is discussing changes to the countywide ethics program, focusing on gifts and ethics advice.

Gift Bans
Conversations about the problems with gift bans are like Hollywood monsters:  they never die (see ...
Robert Wechsler
I thought that I had covered all the blind spots that wreak such havoc on local government ethics (see the section in my book Local Government Ethics Programs). But Dennis J. Moberg's essay, "Ethics Blind Spots in Organizations: How Systematic Errors in Person Perception Undermine Moral Agency...

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