making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler

No, the class exception does not except classy people from ethics codes. It excepts people from recusing themselves when the interests they have that would be affected by an act or decision are similar to a broad class of people. The biggest class is, of course, taxpayers. Municipal officials can vote for budgets even though their taxes are affected by it. Other classes excepted without controversy include homeowners, renters, members of a pension plan, and business owners. But the smaller...

Robert Wechsler

'No Retreat, No Surrender: One Man's Fight.' If only this were the title of a civil rights leader's memoir. But no civil rights leader would talk about 'one' man's fight; it was a group effort. Only someone who falsely sees himself as walking into a sunset alone after a gunfight would use that subtitle for his memoir.

The memoir is Tom DeLay's. It is a title chosen by someone who sees himself as an unrepentant victim.

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Robert Wechsler

Ethics problems and the need for ethics programs are the stuff of cities and, perhaps, larger towns, or so most people think. In small towns, everyone knows everyone else, and people can't get away with unethical conduct. And as for corruption, there simply aren't enough zeros in the town's budget. There's not much to learn from small towns, in terms of municipal ethics. Right?

Middletown Springs, Vermont is a town of 823 (2000 census), and yet its town meeting voted on a proposed...

Robert Wechsler

Connecticut House Speaker James A. Amann has been receiving a great deal of criticism for asking lobbyists for contributions to the charity he works for as a paid fundraiser (including criticism from me: see my blog entry on fundraising problems). He has insisted that his solicitations are legal, and they probably are, since it cannot be proven that he directly received part of the money contributed (however, he did receive $67,500 last year...

Robert Wechsler

Double-dipping occurs when someone holds two government jobs, usually at two different levels of government. This is not legal in many states, and for a good reason. It sets up many possible conflicts of interest, not the least of which is that when you're doing one job, you're not doing the other. It sometimes means actually dealing with yourself, wearing both your hats at once. It leads to a lot of pork-barrel spending, as local officials use their state power and local connections to...

Robert Wechsler

South Africa's police commissioner upon the revelation that he had met privately and repeatedly with a drug kingpin:

"Does that mean that anyone who has an appointment with him is a criminal?"