making local government more ethical

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Advisory Opinions

Robert Wechsler
Over-reaction to an alleged ethics violation can be as bad as under-reaction. In Bergen County, NJ, after one of seven freeholders (the county council), at his first meeting, voted to continue to keep county funds in a bank owned by the parent of the company he works for, an ethics complaint was filed and then the county administrator called on all county offices to take their money out of the bank, according to...
Robert Wechsler
Update: October 15, 2010 (see below)

Decision-makers are given too much credit. Most individuals who vote on government matters are non-professionals who are paid little or nothing, and who rarely focus on the matters before their body. They are, therefore, very dependent on staff members who are professionally trained and who are paid to focus on the matters before the body.

And yet, according to...
Robert Wechsler
An Active EC Is a Good Thing
Local officials often say that because there are no complaints to or advisory opinions by their ethics commissions, their town or city government does not have ethics problems. Actually, it's the other way around. Local governments with active ethics commissions, especially dealing with advisory opinions, are more likely to have healthy ethical environments. It shows that people trust the ethics commission, it shows that people are thinking about ethics...
Robert Wechsler
What is most remarkable about the proposed code of conduct for Santa Fe County (NM) is the fact that it was drafted by the county attorney. It reads as if it were put together by a citizens group in a community that has lost faith in its government officials.

Robert Wechsler

"The worst thing you can do is read the [ethics] law like a lawyer and look for loopholes."

—Richard H. A. Washburn, training manager with the New York State Commission on Public Integrity in a training session with St. Lawrence County's new ethics board and other officials, according to an article in this week's...
Robert Wechsler
Updates: August 24 and 26, 2010 (see below)

For those who, like me, believe that neither a mayor nor a local legislative body nor a city attorney has any business getting involved in the government ethics process, here's an example you can use of the mess they can make when they do get involved.