making local government more ethical

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Complaints/ Investigations/Hearings

Robert Wechsler
Once again, a local government official's attempt to use a charity to get around campaign finance laws has blown up in his face. According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, an Atlanta council member was fined $25,000 by a state court for failing to register a foundation (named after himself) and failing to maintain financial records for it.

Robert Wechsler
When Is a Confidentiality Waiver Not a Confidentiality Waiver?
It is common for ethics codes to allow respondents in ethics proceedings to waive confidentiality and make the proceeding public. This is what South Carolina governor Mark Sanford did, according to an article in The State back in August.

"Sanford said a...

Robert Wechsler
A week ago I wrote a blog post about preferential treatment, emphasizing that the way to distinguish preferential treatment from ordinary decisions and transactions, where someone is commonly preferred over others, is by whether the treatment is fair and whether the regular process is followed.

Fairness is the principal issue in a preferential treatment question...
Robert Wechsler
One of the more interesting battles in the civil war among Maricopa County elected officials is the Battle of the Civil Division. When the county attorney indicted County Supervisor Don Stapley in December 2008, the board of supervisors decided to take away the county attorney's civil division and create a separate county civil law department.

Robert Wechsler
DuPage County, IL, a county of nearly a million people just outside Chicago (its largest town is Naperville), is juggling two ethics ordinance revision processes, one for the county, the other for the county election commission. Both appear to have attracted some controversy.

Robert Wechsler
Government ethics policies sometimes clash. The most common clash involving ethics commissions is with transparency laws.

Like any government body, ethics commissions would prefer not to discuss many sorts of matters in public, both to protect the parties involved and because it is uncomfortable to discuss many ethics matters in public. Because counsel is present during most such discussions, ECs (and their lawyers) often feel that such discussions are privileged. There are also...