making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
There is a fact of life that is very hard for many local elected officials to admit:  most of the campaign contributions given to incumbents and serious challengers come from two sources:  those seeking special benefits from the government and those who work for the government (and their unions). If both of these groups were not permitted to make campaign contributions, local elections would be contested with very little money, unless the government instituted a public campaign financing...
Robert Wechsler
"It was like dandelions. You just accept them. They were there, something you've seen all your life."

Dandelions are a perfect metaphor for institutional corruption. In this case, the dandelions were extra payments (beyond those due to retirees) made by Detroit's two pension funds, to active employees (54%), retirees (14%), and the city itself (32%), the latter to lower annual contributions to the funds, according to...
Robert Wechsler
Yesterday, a felony complaint was issued against William Rapfogel, the CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, a large nonprofit social service agency that received millions of dollars in grants and contracts from New York City, New York state, and the federal government. One of the charges is that the nonprofit made large campaign contributions to city and state...
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
“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...