making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
We often hear elected officials saying, "I can't be bought at any price." The assumption behind this statement is that there is no amount of money, no job offer, nothing that will make the elected official act or vote any way than the way he otherwise intends to act or vote, that he cannot be influenced.

In a discussion forum I follow, journalist Ben Adler pointed out that there might actually be different prices for different acts. Sometimes elected officials accept gifts or...
Robert Wechsler
Many people believe that conflicts of interest are in and of themselves bad, and that government ethics laws should prevent those with conflicts of interest from becoming public servants. Many people believe that government ethics is about being good or bad. When the two come together in one person and one speech, the result can be fireworks.

People who have misconceptions about government ethics also tend not to be able to distinguish between different sorts of conflict situation...
Robert Wechsler
It's been over two years since I wrote about the indictments of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father, and a city contractor. This morning, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press...
Robert Wechsler
A February draft advisory opinion from the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission (attached; see below) raises two different issues. One is the problematic nature of a total gift ban, that is, a ban on all gifts from anyone, accompanied by a whole host of exceptions. The other is the important differences among gifts, campaign contributions, and contributions to an official's legal defense fund...
Robert Wechsler
“It’s much to-do about not much. I’m trying to run a city, and you’re worried about people’s relationships?” These are the words of Mount Vernon, NY mayor Ernest Davis, who is the subject of IRS and FBI investigations, and now an investigation by the city's ethics board, according to an article in Wednesday's Journal News.

Robert Wechsler
The arrest of Miami Beach's former procurement director last October may not be news, but there's a lot to be learned from this case. The issues include personal discretion, alternatives to fully competitive bidding, access to information, and debarment rules.

According to the affidavit of arrest (attached; see below), the procurement director was arrested on charges of bid tampering, bribery, and money laundering. He became a silent partner with another man (a public school...