making local government more ethical
On Friday, the Louisville ethics commission found that a council member intentionally violated several ethics provisions. This was its first major action under the city's new ethics code, which I wrote about last year. The EC gave the council member the most serious penalty it can give to a council member, a letter of reprimand and a letter of formal censure. And then it did something unusual: it recommended to the council that it commence proceedings to remove the council member.

In March, I wrote a blog post about a nepotism situation in Valparaiso, IN. The city's ethics commission found that the hiring of the fire chief's son would be in violation of the ethics code, because the chief would be directly involved in personnel matters involving his son.

According to an NWI Times article, the council and the city attorney quickly did what they could to allow the chief to stay in place. The city attorney drafted an amendment that would allow any department that had a recusal rule for such situations to be excepted from the nepotism provision. He argued that because the uniformed departments had paramilitary-like structures that insulate top officials from direct supervision over personnel, nepotism is not so great a problem for them. He acknowledged that any department that employed such a structure, including recusal, could also be excepted from the nepotism provision.

I was just reading a review in The Economist of Francis Fukayama's new book, The Origins of Political Order. The review made me think differently about nepotism, a government ethics issue that is usually considered rather minor.

Some people may know that the Catholic Church instituted priestly celibacy in the late 11th century in order to prevent the Church from becoming a second aristocracy, handing on the Church's lands and power to the children of Church leaders. But according to the review, Fukayama says that celibacy was also "vital in the battle against corruption and rent-seeking in the church, both of which were the typical consequences of patrimony. The reforms gave the church the moral stature to evolve into ... 'a modern, hierarchical, bureaucratic and law-governed institution,'" and this in turn "set the ground rules for the subsequent rise of the secular state."

Wow! Get a Load of Those Salaries!
It's official. People get more upset over big salaries to government officials than over bribes, kickbacks, unbid contracts, and the like, which cost taxpayers far, far more.

I wish that a grad student somewhere would decide to do an exhaustive study of a poor ethics environment. Broward County, Florida would not be a bad choice as the subject of her research.

According to an article in the Miami Herald this week, a Deerfield Beach commissioner, formerly mayor and formerly a Broward County commissioner, is the 17th official in this southern Florida county to be indicted on ethics charges in the last five years. Only last month, I wrote about the 16th, the mayor of Tamarac, a city with its own rotten crop of oranges.