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Local Government Attorneys

Robert Wechsler
In a blog post last week, I listed the many reasons why city and county attorneys should not be providing ethics advice. One of those reasons was that "legal advice and ethics advice require different skill sets." But I limited this part of my analysis to saying that "A legal adviser sticks to the letter of the law, and is always on the lookout for...
Robert Wechsler
A month ago, I wrote about some problems Honolulu's ethics program was having with the corporation counsel. The problems have continued. The big issue this last week has been the corporation counsel's provision of ethics advice. So far, the argument has primarily taken place in the form of memos.

The corporation counsel responded in an October 25 memo to questions directed to it by the city...
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...
Robert Wechsler
Many people think that lawyers make the best ethics commission members. In fact, many ethics codes require that at least some members of an ethics commission be lawyers.

However, lawyers are the individuals most likely to have relationships and obligations that conflict with the obligations they have as EC members. For example, they often have relationships with elected officials, who are often lawyers themselves, as well as with clients who seek special benefits from the local...
Robert Wechsler
In early 2009, I started out a blog post, "Type 'ethics' into the search line at utah.gov, and all that comes up is Archery Ethics Course Online." That is no longer true. In fact, the state legislature not only has an ethics commission, it even passed a local ethics commission act. And in response to that act, some Utah municipalities have set up ethics commissions or hearing officers, and one group in Davis County is even at...
Robert Wechsler
Many local ethics programs are caught up in an ongoing battle with the city or county attorney. Usually this battle goes on behind the scenes. But in Honolulu, due to an unusual grant of budget oversight to the corporation counsel, this battle has gone public.

I devoted a long section of my book Local Government Ethics Programs to the conflicts...

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