making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
The mayor of a city of 46,000 people announces that the city would change its policy requiring annexation to obtain water and sewer service, and then negotiates an agreement with a developer to provide him with utilities. In the middle of the negotiations, the developer gives the mayor's campaign a $10,000 contribution. An ethics complaint is filed with the state ethics commission and, according to an...
Robert Wechsler
Ethics charges are often not the end, but rather the beginning of a process to improve government ethics. Take a recent instance in Los Angeles.

According to a City News Service article last week, a construction director for the Los Angeles Unified School District "was charged with nine felony counts of conflict of interest for allegedly hiring people he employed in his own business to work for the...
Robert Wechsler
One of the biggest differences between unethical conduct and criminal conduct by government officials is the matter of proving intent. For example, a bribe is nothing more than a gift to a government official where it has been proven that the official intentionally took a gift in return for certain conduct. In government ethics, taking a gift beyond a certain value is all that needs to be proven to show misconduct. The official's conduct, beyond accepting the gift, is irrelevant, as is the...
Robert Wechsler
Georgia seems intent on providing an entire course on the ethical obligations of government attorneys. This time it's the obligations of the state's top government attorney, the attorney general. There's also an issue concerning special government attorneys.

The governor wants to file a suit to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health care reform bill. The elected attorney general says that it's unlikely to be successful, and would be a waste of state resources.
Robert Wechsler
Here's another blog post about a Georgian who wants out of EC jurisdiction.

Some ethics commissions, especially state ethics commissions, have no jurisdiction over officials once they leave office. Especially when ECs require confidentiality regarding complaints until probable cause is found, this lack of jurisdiction allows officials to resign before their unethical conduct becomes public. And it allows officials to evade enforcement.

Robert Wechsler
Government lawyers enjoy exceptions to transparency laws. Should they also be excepted from government ethics laws? Atlanta senior assistant city attorney Robert N. Godfrey thinks so, according to an article in yesterday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Godfrey allowed lawyers suing the city to pick up two restaurant tabs for him at meals they attended together. But he says...