making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
According to an investigative article on Nashville's WTVF-TV site yesterday evening, a former property assessor had help from a developer in disposing of her home and buying one from the developer, and also undervalued nine of the developer's properties by a total of $9.5 million over three years.

The assessor says that the developer offered the...
Robert Wechsler
One of the wonderful things about local government ethics is that every mayor or county executive feels qualified to act as if he was establishing the first local government ethics program ever. It's sort of like choosing what will go in a bento box, except that there are no rules (e.g., only one sushi roll, or you've got to have miso or the clear soup).

A new bento box is being put together in the infamous Prince George's County, MD. It was only a year and a half ago that...
Robert Wechsler
A big controversy surrounding the race for mayor of Honolulu is focused on the state's pay-to-play culture of the past, and what pay to play actually is. The reason for this is that a former Hawaii governor is running for mayor, and he is being supported by Bob Watada, a former state Campaign Spending Commission executive director who is known for bringing the state's pay-to-play culture to its knees during his 1994-2005 term in office.

According to...
Robert Wechsler
I believe that an ethics commission/ethics officer approach to local government ethics is far better than an inspector general approach. The simultaneous creation of an EC/EO approach in Palm Beach County, FL and an IG approach in neighboring Broward County provides a small laboratory for seeing which works better.

Thankfully, Brittany Wallman of the Sun-Sentinel has compared the two approaches in two articles,...
Robert Wechsler
Update: August 9, 2012 (see below)

People tend to think that all good government people are alike. The thinking goes that those who favor the improvement of ethics programs also favor such things as term limits, referendums and initiatives, and pension forfeiture by those found to have violated the public's trust. As a matter of fact, I don't favor any of these other good government approaches.

The one I want to talk about in this blog post is referendums. They...
Robert Wechsler
Luis Toro, director of Colorado Watch, wrote an interesting Huffington Post post yesterday about ethics issues relating to Colorado's public trustee system.

Public trustees (one per county) oversee the foreclosure system in the state. They work things out between lenders and homeowners. Most of them are elected county treasurers, and ten of them are appointed by the...

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