making local government more ethical

You are here

Advisory Opinions

Robert Wechsler
What is the best way to prevent high-level officials from participating in matters involving departments or agencies where their close family members are employed, without doing this unreasonably, that is, excluding situations where the family members have no influence and will receive no benefits?

This is the question that has been raised in Baltimore by council members, particularly the council president who, according to...
Robert Wechsler
I have done a poor job in this blog covering administrative ethics, that is, the field of study involving the professional conduct of public administrators. Writers on administrative ethics have done a poor job of covering government ethics, that is, the field of study involving conflicts of interest. Although the two fields overlap, they exist in mostly separate worlds.  For example, rarely does an administrative ethics professor show up at a Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL)...
Robert Wechsler
[Note: I have made changes throughout this blog post, based on a February 25 e-mail message from the COG executive director]

It should feel good when a pet idea of yours becomes a reality. My pet idea is the regional ethics program, whose biggest successes have been of the countywide variety, such as Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County, FL (there is also a Broward County program, but it is run by an inspector general). There are a few regional ethics commissions in Kentucky,...
Robert Wechsler
Some very interesting issues arise out of a past (and present) conflict situation that has become an issue in this week's mayoral primary in the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, KS ("UG").

The conflict situation appears simple at first glance, but it is not. In 2007, a UG commissioner became the paid executive director of the Argentine Neighborhood Development Association ("ANDA"), a nonprofit Community...
Robert Wechsler
Simplifying Self-Supervision
In their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (Crown, 2010), Chip and Dan Heath note that self-control or, more accurately, self-supervision is an exhaustible resource. What looks like laziness or selfishness is often simply exhaustion. Self-supervision gets burned up by managing the impression we make on others, by coping with...
Robert Wechsler
Note: When I originally wrote this blog post, I erroneously assumed that the ethics commission member whose conflict situation I discuss was the only one selected by the assembly speaker. I since learned that three of the members were selected by the assembly speaker. I would argue, therefore, that these three members are in the same situation (except for the personal opinion expressed about someone who would presumably be involved in the matter). With a fourteen-member commission, the...