making local government more ethical

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Family Members/Nepotism

Robert Wechsler
There is nothing more natural and, in most circumstances, ethical than a mother doing her best to help her son when he is in trouble. And yet, in most jurisdictions, there are multiple government ethics laws that prohibit this very conduct when the mother is a government official. This is as good an example as there is of the fact that government ethics is not about ethical conduct in general, but rather about government fiduciaries dealing responsibly with their conflicts of interest.
Robert Wechsler
Another day, another grand jury report recommending government ethics reform. This report (attached; see below) comes from Orange County, NY, a county northwest of New York City, whose biggest town is Newburgh and whose most famous towns include the very different Tuxedo and Kiryas Joel.

The report criminally exonerates the county legislator who is its subject, because he did a couple things right:  he sought ethics advice from the ethics board, and he disclosed his employment with...
Robert Wechsler
While researching my last blog post, I visited the webpage of Tallahassee mayor John Marks, and was thrown for a bit of a loop. The first two paragraphs of his bio look more like an advertisement for his law firm than the bio of a mayor:
John Marks, Mayor of the City of Tallahassee, practices law with his son at Marks and Marks, LLC.  The firm focuses its practice on utility regulation...
Robert Wechsler
Here is a concrete example of the problem of allowing local government attorneys to provide ethics advice that protects local officials, a problem that Florida state senator Jeff Clemens and the Florida League of Cities want to harden into state law in SB 606 (see my recent blog post for a discussion of the problem).

According to...
Robert Wechsler
Settlements of ethics proceedings are usually a good thing for everyone involved. They save officials the cost of a proceeding and prevent officials from digging themselves deeper and deeper into defenses, denials, and cover-ups, which are usually more harmful to the public trust than any ethics violation. They save taxpayers the cost of a proceeding and of possible appeals. They save the community the pain of going through an extended fight over an ethics violation, which can hurt its...
Robert Wechsler
A recent Miami Herald article describes a case that embodies a number of important government ethics issues, including the conflict issues that involve local schools of higher education, gifts to officials' relatives and the officials' knowledge of them, an ethics program's jurisdiction over these relatives, and whether government attorneys should provide...