making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Is the partisanship of local government elections a government ethics issue? I think it is, partly.

The story that sparked my thoughts about this was one from today's New York Times about Mayor Bloomberg's second attempt to turn New York City elections from partisan to nonpartisan.

Pro-nonpartisan arguments include "the unhealthy influence of parties" and the...
Robert Wechsler
A Good Discussion of a Possible Conflict
It's good to see ethics discussions where both sides have good arguments to make. According to an article yesterday on, the selectmen of Lakeville, MA were discussing the possible hiring of an electrical inspector who does electrical work for the town of 10,000 south of...
Robert Wechsler
Misinformation is rampant in local government ethics. And the less people understand it, the easier it is for the misinformation to be taken at face value.

According to an article in yesterday's Dispatch, in Columbus, a city of 24,000 in eastern Mississippi, one council member's response to a fist fight between the mayor and another council member was to propose an ethics code so that officials...
Robert Wechsler
I was reminded today that Sen. Arlen Specter, who recently switched from the Republican party to the Democratic party, voted against Elena Kagan's appointment as solicitor-general. He now appears likely to support her appointment to the Supreme Court. This raised the issue in my mind:  is it ever right for an elected official to vote on an appointment on purely partisan grounds?

Not surprisingly, the same issue arose this week at the local level, in North Greenbush, New York, a town...
Robert Wechsler
Last September, I wrote a blog post about an ethics initiative in Palm Beach County, Florida. A response to numerous scandals, it featured an ethics pledge, primarily for government officials, and a successful attempt to get an independent ethics commission and inspector general for the county government. I felt that the business leaders in Palm Beach County who led the...
Robert Wechsler
When it comes to ethics fines, it's hard to satisfy anyone. Fines are usually too large or too small, depending on whom you ask. No one likes to be punished, and no one likes the guilty to get off easy. So what is an ethics commission to do?

This week there have been two newspaper articles featuring opposite ends of the fine spectrum.

Few Fines in California