making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
In March I wrote a blog post about a situation in La Crosse, Wisconsin where the mayor brought his father, who runs a refuse business, to meet with a county official about a county solid waste assessment. A council member sought advice from the city attorney rather than the city ethics board, and then the mayor said he would put the matter before the ethics board. His father's company has a refuse...
Robert Wechsler
Update: September 23, 2010 (see below)

Lack of transparency and voter indifference, especially relating to technical issues, are often considered minor issues not central to local government ethics. What happened the last few years in Bell, California (pop. 37,000; Los Angeles County) should make people think again about how central transparency and citizen participation are to preventing unethical...
Robert Wechsler
“How he is treated is important. He’s going to fight for his name. Rather than accept language he disagrees with, he would rather fight it out. This is his life.”

These are the words of an adviser to congressman Charles Rangel about why his month-long settlement negotiations with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct broke down.

The committee's lawyers had a different story to tell. According to...
Robert Wechsler
It's important to be careful when it comes to conflicts of interest, but it's also important not to be too careful. When you're too careful, you send the wrong message to members of the community and you miseducate them about government ethics.

This is what happened this week in my own town of North Haven, Connecticut. According to an article in the July 16 North Haven Citizen, the first...
Robert Wechsler
A Poor Approach to Being Ethical
It's great when candidates talk up acting ethically. But it's going too far, and setting a bad precedent, when a candidate takes a lie-detector test in which he says that he never engaged in unethical activities in private- or public-sector work, as reported in the Moultrie (GA) Observer.

The candidate said...
Robert Wechsler
I recently wrote a blog post about a false statements in elections law in Ohio, and the problems with enforcing such laws. I have often written about the problems with self-enforcement of ethics laws. In the Wisconsin case of a state supreme court justice's misrepresentations in an election ad, the two have come together, big-time. The result is far more injurious, even crippling, to public trust in the...