making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler

As I state in my comments to section 207 of the model code, cutting the funding of ethics commissions is a popular way for politicians to prevent investigations from happening. Therefore, ethics reformers are always looking for new ways to ensure funding.

In Oregon, legislators decided to turn to local governments as a dedicated source of funding of an ethics commission that oversees local government officials.

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Robert Wechsler

What's the difference between wearing multiple hats and having conflicts of interest?

Former Vancouver City Manager Ken Dobell is the project manager (contractor, not employee) for a cultural precinct in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is also chair of the finance committee of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. He is also a long-time adviser to British Columbia's Premier, Gordon Campbell (under contract; formerly Deputy Minister to the...

Robert Wechsler

One of the most serious obstacles to ethics training is cynicism. For example, a councilman in South Lake Tahoe, California said, according to a recent article in the Tahoe Daily Tribune, that the California requirement of ethics training for all municipal officials is an indication of a breakdown in trust in local government and "It's not going to change behavior. [It] creates a job for someone."


Robert Wechsler

How can an ethics commission be truly independent?

In the model code I wrote as the beginning of what I hope will be a long public conversation about all aspects of municipal ethics, I suggest that a municipality's legislative body appoint members from a list given to them by the local League of Women Voters.

I did not mean to prefer this particular organization, but to get people thinking (and talking) about the possibility of having an independent,...

Robert Wechsler

When an ethics commission is appointed by the city's principal officials, can it possibly clear the air with respect to allegations against them? Baltimore's Board of Ethics has five members, four of them appointed by the mayor, three of those confirmed by the Council, and the fifth member appointed by the city solicitor, who is in turn a mayoral appointee.

According to...

Robert Wechsler

There's a lot of talk about organizational culture and the effect it can have on individuals' unethical conduct, but it's rare to find reported instances of poor organizational cultures that aren't extreme, such as Chicago. Even Enron had an excellent ethics program, and its misconduct appears to have been limited to high-level management.

The U.S. Department of the Interior seems to be an excellent example of a terrible organizational culture, at least according to its Inspector...