making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Update: June 18, 2010 (see below)

In a memo dated June 14, 2010 (attached; see below), the Broward County (FL) county attorney told the county commission that lobbying provisions in the county ethics commission's proposed ethics code are unconstitutional and,...
Robert Wechsler
What responsibility does a supervisor have for the unethical conduct of a subordinate? This issue arises in a matter in Winn Parish, Louisiana where, according to an article on, based on a channel 10 newscast (accessible on the same page as the article), a former chief deputy sheriff is being investigated by the state ethics board for apparently having used deputies to collect rent for properties he...
Robert Wechsler
According to an article in yesterday's New York Times, it is coming out that more teachers and school administrators have been involved in cheating on the test scores that may not only give them bonuses, but may determine whether their schools continue to exist. One can argue ad infinitum about the pressures, temptations, and morals involved. But one thing is certain: the problems were not created by...
Robert Wechsler
As serious as the appearance of impropriety that arises from the council member's family firm seeking TIF money and a tax abatement from the city is the fact that any developer or member of a developer's family sitting on a city council faces not just the occasional ethical controversy, as has been the case in this situation. Such an individual faces an ongoing series of possible conflicts, most of which do not lead to complaints, requests for advisory opinions, or controversies.

Robert Wechsler
The family firm's $100 million development takes this matter beyond ordinary conflicts, due to state and local laws on officials entering into public contracts with their city. What makes this issue far more serious than an ordinary conflict, which can be dealt with responsibly through recusal, is that both state and local law require the official to choose between his government position and an interest in a public contract. It is this far more drastic remedy that has recently escalated...
Robert Wechsler
In determining whether a conflict or preferential treatment might exist, another aspect of benefits, in addition to how definite or direct they are, is their proportionality. Stated in the form of a question, Is the benefit at issue just one of many equivalent benefits to a sizeable group, such as senior citizens or property owners, or is it especially large?

The council member took the position that he and his family firm benefited no more than others who owned or had development...