making local government more ethical

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Advisory Opinions

Robert Wechsler
Within Election Law Center blogger Christian Adams' recent ad hominem attack on me is an idea that is worth discussing. He said that, in requiring candidate committees to come to me for permission (what is commonly referred to as "ethics advice") when I was the administrator of a public campaign financing program, I was displaying a "joy" and "love" of power...
Robert Wechsler
The idea of a designated driver was a great idea (thank you, Scandinavia). The idea of the designated hitter was a lousy idea (yes, I'm a National Leaguer).

How about a designated ethics aide? A staff member assigned by a local legislator, or department or agency head, to be her point person on conflicts of interest is much more like a designated driver than a designated hitter. Like someone with a few drinks under her belt, an official in a conflict situation has a blurry vision...
Robert Wechsler
It is very damaging when a government official misrepresents ethics advice he has been given. What should an ethics officer or commission do when this happens? In many cases, such advice, especially when it is provided informally, is confidential. When an official makes a public statement about such advice, the EC spokesperson can say nothing but "No comment." This allows the official to say whatever he likes.

This situation was answered skillfully by the Massachusetts Ethics...
Robert Wechsler

"The code of conduct guiding U.S. judges is not technically binding on Supreme Court justices. But we choose to follow it. The Judicial Conference [of the United States] has a committee on judicial ethics that will give advisory opinions to judges who have questions about whether something is ethical. I always check with that committee. ... [An example of a question, answer, and handling of the situation.] ... that’s an example of how I’m insulated by that committee."

Robert Wechsler
Kudos to the editorial board of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for inventing a new local government ethics term in an editorial yesterday. The term is "dyscronia."

Robert Wechsler
It is a pleasant surprise to find an intelligent conversation about local government ethics in an article and the comments to it. The latest example of this occurred yesterday in the New Haven (CT) Independent, an online newspaper.

The conflict situation involves two instances of lobbying before the city's Board of Zoning Appeals by the city's former...