making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
According to an article in yesterday's Morning Journal, the Law Director of Lorain, OH (a city of 70,000), advising a council member, said, “If his employer had a direct financial interest, he would have a conflict. But it does not.”

A council member who was vice president of a regional firefighters association (a union), although no longer a firefighter...
Robert Wechsler
Many government lawyers feel that the rules of professional conduct are sufficient to keep them ethical. Because of this, they sometimes seek to be excluded from an ethics commission's jurisdiction (see a recent blog post) and more often argue that the attorney discipline system takes precedence. An...
Robert Wechsler
A no-bid or improperly bid contract cannot help but create an appearance of impropriety. And yet not only do elected officials keep defending them, but they also refuse to acknowledge the appearance of impropriety that surrounds every one of them, especially when elected officials and their family members are involved. Here are two current examples, one in Dallas, the other in Richmond, KY, a city of 33,000 about 90 miles from Churchill Downs.

In Dallas, the no-...
Robert Wechsler

(illustration from, Toronto)

I haven't mentioned billboard companies in my blog. It's about time. Billboard companies can be a serious source of apparent impropriety and corruption in local government. And this is an important time for them, because things are changing in the billboard world. It's no longer mostly about old-fashioned billboards along highways. It's digital supergraphics on buildings and all sorts of 21st-century innovations that...
Robert Wechsler

A city creates the position of inspector general in order to root out, and hopefully prevent, corruption. The inspector general decides to investigate a situation. A city attorney is involved. The attorney-client privilege is invoked. The investigation is blocked. And the word goes out:  if you want to hide your corrupt conduct, involve a city attorney. It's that simple.

According to...
Robert Wechsler
Update: April 29, 2010 (see below)

The idea of a possible conflict of interest should not be an excuse for a fishing expedition to find relationships between local government legislators and people or contracts they vote on. This appears to be what is happening in Crossville, a town of 9,000 in east-central Tennessee.

One problem is the vague idea people have of the word "interest." The Crossville...