One of the rarely questioned truisms of local government ethics is,
"One size does not fit all." Usually this means that one ethics code
is not right for every city or county, that every jurisdiction has
its own issues and problems.
In some ways this is true. New York City's huge ethics program is
hardly appropriate to a small town, because there is such a large
difference in available resources. But there is no difference when
it comes to ethics rules or the need for training or independent
advice and enforcement.
Think of it this way: NYC has a huge corporation counsel
office, which no town would think of copying. But every small town
has a town attorney, and officials turn to the town attorney just as
NYC officials turn to the corporation counsel for legal advice. Why
shouldn't small town officials have access to professional ethics
advice, as well, even if it's only from someone on contract, who
bills only three hours a month?
"One size does not fit all" does not apply to basic ethics
provisions, to enforcement processes, or to the administration of an
ethics program. In other words, the truism is rarely appropriate to
the situations where it is used, such as the
drafting of a state model ethics code or the application of a good
county ethics program's rules to one's own county.
One place where it does apply, however, is in the specifics. The
specifics of conflicts in a procurement program are different from
those for a planning commission or a local legislative body. Los
Angeles has a unique system of conflict of interest codes that takes
into account the true differences among agencies, departments, and