making local government more ethical

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Self-Regulation

Robert Wechsler
Government pensions are one of the most serious issues facing local and state governments. Most pension plans are underfunded, and the generous pensions, the relatively short vesting periods, and the low retirement ages that allow for at least one more career, not only cost taxpayers a great deal of money, but seem unfair to those without pensions or with far worse pension situations.

This is not an area where government officials should want to add apparent conflicts to the mix,...
Robert Wechsler
Over-reaction to an alleged ethics violation can be as bad as under-reaction. In Bergen County, NJ, after one of seven freeholders (the county council), at his first meeting, voted to continue to keep county funds in a bank owned by the parent of the company he works for, an ethics complaint was filed and then the county administrator called on all county offices to take their money out of the bank, according to...
Robert Wechsler
Forget the fascinating range of ethics programs at the local level. It is congressional ethics programs that get the national attention. And with all this attention, what Congress does, and fails to do, has a great effect not only on what happens at the local level, but also on the rhetoric employed there.

When Congress self-administered its own ethics, every council or county commission member could say that if self-regulation is good enough for Congress, it's good enough for them...
Robert Wechsler
Updates: August 24 and 26, 2010 (see below)

For those who, like me, believe that neither a mayor nor a local legislative body nor a city attorney has any business getting involved in the government ethics process, here's an example you can use of the mess they can make when they do get involved.

First, here is the background of the Fort Worth situation. According to...
Robert Wechsler
In a recent blog post, I wrote about a federal third circuit decision that a law prohibiting an ethics complainant from announcing the filing of the complaint violates the complainant's first amendment rights. This decision contradicts a second circuit decision that upheld a law prohibiting the announcing of the filing of a judicial...
Robert Wechsler
I hate to see people resign with statements such as this, as typical as they are:
    While I have been assured that I have violated no existing code, ordinance or statute, I cannot permit my integrity — and, by insinuation, Councilwoman Hermann’s — to be attacked.
Sadly, these are the words of a former Kansas City (MO) ethics commission member, according to an article in the...

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