making local government more ethical

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Model Code

All stories and pages related to the Model Code Project

Robert Wechsler
Update (9/30/09)
I tend to focus a lot on weaknesses of ethics codes, but sometimes ethics codes go too far. One reason for this is that they are usually responses to scandals that are criminal in nature, that is, scandals that do not involve conflicts of interest. Another reason is that most people don't understand that ethics codes are really conflict of interest codes, not codes that deal with all of an official's behavior. It's appropriate to have aspirational provisions that...
Robert Wechsler
There are many perils of an inadequate local government ethics code, as can be seen in Colorado Springs, which passed an ethics code in 2007. Last week, I wrote a blog entry about the new ethics commission's first complaint. Even before the ethics commission has met on the complaint, problems have arisen, according to...
Robert Wechsler
The two best defenses against dealing responsibly with a conflict are that the local government attorney told me it was okay, and I didn't know there was a conflict. The first can be dealt with by getting the local government attorney out of the government ethics picture. But the second requires something few local government ethics codes require: applicant disclosure.

Applicant disclosure is a disclosure of interests and relationships when an individual or firm applies for money...
Robert Wechsler
The biggest thing missing from ethics codes is lying. Everyone agrees that a government official or employee who lies lacks integrity, but ethics codes almost never prohibit this.

It isn't that lying is okay, it's just very hard to enforce. Defending a lie leads to more lies and other forms of dishonesty. It can get really ugly.

That's why it's better to deal with truth-telling in a positive, unenforceable way in aspirational codes, such as the American Society for...
Robert Wechsler
Technicalities should play little role in discussions about local government ethics. But because there are ethics laws, people unashamedly talk about ethics technicalities. They see ethics laws as like any other law, not as minimal requirements that deserve more thinking about what's appropriate than about what's legal.

According to an article in Saturday's ...
Robert Wechsler
Earlier this week, I wrote about an application of Louisiana ethics law that I felt was too severe. Today I'm going to write about a Louisiana ethics provision, a fairly typical gift provision that applies to local government officials, which is too weak, because it has a big loophole in it.

Ethical Leadership
But before identifying this common loophole, I want to make it clear that New Orleans' mayor, by...

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