making local government more ethical

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Family Members/Nepotism

Robert Wechsler
Officials and lawyers tend to act as if they were Platonists. That is, they talk about conflicts of interest as if they existed in a ideal form, divorced from reality.

Many government ethicists, including me, see conflicts of interest as things that exist in the real world, a world where the public is concerned that officials seek to use their office to help themselves and those with whom they have special relationships, such as family members and business associates. What is odd...
Robert Wechsler
News from British Columbia provides strong evidence of how difficult it is for anyone to deal with his own conflict situation, even a government ethics professional. No one should think that it is easy for someone to see an appearance of impropriety relating to himself or to respond to a conflict allegation against him in anything but a personal manner. A government ethics program must facilitate the process of dealing responsibly with a conflict situation by allowing, or even requiring,...
Robert Wechsler
It's been a few years since I wrote about the problems with the partisan, or "bipartisan," administration of local elections. One thing that arisen from this year's election is a strong feeling that it is high time that New York City's Board of Elections be reformed. Hopefully, this process will get a great deal of publicity, and become a guide for other communities.

The principal problem in New York City, as in many...
Robert Wechsler
Independent agencies, especially those with lots of money to spend and contracts to enter into, require not just ethics policies, but a comprehensive, independent ethics program. This rarely acknowledged fact has been made clear once again by an external audit of an agency that proved completely unable to self-regulate its officials' and employees' conflicts of interest. The agency is the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which...
Robert Wechsler
A front-page article in yesterday's New York Times provides an excellent portrait of a government official who, although doing much good work, made it all about himself and those with whom he has special relationships. Although his misconduct caught up with him only when it took the form of the alleged sexual harassment of his...
Robert Wechsler
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...