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Robert Wechsler
Officials and lawyers tend to act as if they were Platonists. That is, they talk about conflicts of interest as if they existed in a ideal form, divorced from reality.

Many government ethicists, including me, see conflicts of interest as things that exist in the real world, a world where the public is concerned that officials seek to use their office to help themselves and those with whom they have special relationships, such as family members and business associates. What is odd...
Robert Wechsler

“These are, as far as I’m concerned, the everyday things and courtesies that are done in life.”

—Andrew P. O'Rourke, then Westchester County (NY) Executive, after admitting that he had sought a job for his son-in-law (and an admission interview for his daughter) at a medical college that had a contract with the county; had recommended his domestic partner for a job with the county's medical insurer; and had "looked the other way" when his daughter was hired by the county's...
Robert Wechsler
In February, I wrote seven blog posts applying some of the concepts and practices of nonviolence to the field of government ethics. This is effectively an eighth post. This time the inspiration is not a book, but the latest issue of the journal New Routes, entitled "Peace Without Borders: Regional Peacebuilding in...
Robert Wechsler
Annapolis is an unusual little city in many ways. It may only have 40,000 residents, but it's the state capital, the county seat, the home of the U.S. Naval Academy, and equidistant, and not far, from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. With respect to government ethics, the county for which it is the county seat, Anne Arundel County, has a relatively good ethics program, complete with an executive director, which is very...
Robert Wechsler
On November 29, Florida State University’s LeRoy Collins Institute and the new good government group Integrity Florida released a report entitled "Florida Counties Bridge the Ethics Policy Gap", which analyzes the results of a survey of government ethics programs and reforms in 45 of Florida’s 67 counties.

Besides a lot of statistics of the sort lacking in local government ethics, this report...
Robert Wechsler
One of the most important ways of preventing ethical misconduct usually does not appear in an ethics code, because it does not involve a traditional conflict of interest. I am referring to non-legislative roles played by local legislators, especially roles that enable them to create a pay-to-play environment. These roles are played in the two principal areas where ethical misconduct occurs:  procurement and land use decisions.

In past blog posts, I have focused on land use...