making local government more ethical
Update: Counsel for the Housing Authority informed me that it was the Authority board, through him, that originally notified HUD of problems, and that another counsel was involved in some of the relevant transactions. Therefore, I have made some changes to the original post.

An editorial in today's New Haven Register sets forth allegations about the West Haven (CT) Housing Authority that add up to a typical fiefdom (see the section on fiefdoms in my book Local Government Ethics Programs). This case is especially interesting to me, since I live in North Haven, not far away.

There appears to have been no effective local oversight of the housing authority staff, either by the housing authority commissioners, by the appointing authority (the mayor), by the council, or by anyone else in the government or the community.

Ethics Code Amendment Without a Scandal
Sometimes conflict situations, when they are handled responsibly, lead to changes in an ethics code. This happened recently in Prince William County, Virginia, according to an article on the insidenova.com website.

A county supervisor wanted to give $100,000 of his discretionary funds to his wife’s charity project. Then he thought the matter through, and decided not to. But he didn't stop there. He presented an amendment to the county's conflict of interest policy that would prevent county supervisors from voting on any matter where the supervisor or an immediate family member had a direct conflict of interest, and on any matter where funding was directed to an organization on whose board the supervisor or family member sat.

A Complex School Board Conflict Situation
Should someone closely associated with an organization that has been awarded a sizeable preschool contract be prevented from sitting on a school board when the contract was not with the school board? That is one of the questions raised by an article this week in the Connecticut Post. The Bridgeport, CT school board member, a minister, was originally appointed by the state, but is running to retain his seat on a new, elected board. His opponents are questioning the propriety of his sitting on the board.

It's Attack the Ethics Commission week once again, this time in New York State. According to an April 16 article in the Albany Times-Union, a mayor from one party filed a complaint against the deputy majority leader of the New York Senate, who is a member of the other party. The complaint is included below the article, and a statement by the mayor, about the filing, is quoted.

Fast forward to May 15, when the senate majority leader accused the state ethics commission of leaking the commission's letter to the respondent. What important information could possibly be in the letter to the respondent that was not already in the complaint?

A few issues arise in the case of a Pennsylvania state senator who reached a settlement this week with the state's ethics commission that included a fine of $21,000, according to an article in yesterday's Montgomery County Times Herald.

Pennsylvania state senators are paid for the rental of their district offices. This senator's wife (and then the senator himself after their divorce) owned 50% of the company that owned the building where he had his district office, until the company was sold in 2008.

At first blush, it might not seem a problem for an official to rent an office from himself, as long as he is paying the going rate. But what is the going rate? And might the space not have been rented at all if the official didn't rent it to himself? Since these questions are hard to answer, it is best that an official not rent to himself.

This week, a citizen in the village of Niles, IL (pop. 30,000) made a proposal for applicant disclosure, something every ethics program should have, but most do not. According to an article in yesterday's Niles Herald-Spectator, the proposal "would ask if the applicant’s officers, directors or partners are related by blood or marriage or reside in the same residence as any Niles elected official, appointed official [or] village employee. It would also require the applicant to disclose information regarding political contributions to any such elected official, appointed official or Niles employee" over the past five years.

randomness