making local government more ethical

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Complicity and Knowledge

Robert Wechsler
Despite writing this blog for six years, I keep finding important areas of government ethics that I have not discussed. One such area involves dealing with the possible conflicts of outside auditors. Large cities and counties have internal auditors or comptrollers, but most local governments employ the services of external auditing firms, just as companies do. These auditors have special duties toward their clients, that is, to the community, not to the individuals who hire them and with whom...
Robert Wechsler
I recently read Judith N. Shklar's book The Faces of Injustice (Yale U.P., 1990). This excellent essay about the difference between misfortune and injustice would not appear to have much to do with government ethics. But there turns out to be much relevant...
Robert Wechsler
Louisiana Incarcerated is an investigative series that ran recently in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. It is a story rooted in an extremely poor ethics environment that, despite vaunted ethics reforms (that many, including me, have criticized), does not seem to have changed.

The series has introduced into popular culture the term "honey hole," one sheriff's description of the cells in his prison, which is...
Robert Wechsler
I never know where I'm going to find something that inspires a blog post on local government ethics. This time it was an essay by Tim Parks in the March 8 issue of the New York Review of Books, as well as on the NYRBlog. The essay is about Italy, and the possibility for change in its government, economy, and culture. Parks, a British novelist and once literary translator from Italian into...
Robert Wechsler
It's not every day that a neighboring town makes the front page of the New York Times. It's especially surprising when the reason is, at heart, a local government ethics problem.

The town is East Haven, CT (most recently in the national news for a part of it being overrun by waves during Hurricane Irene), and the problem ostensibly...
Robert Wechsler
As I near the end of writing my local government ethics book, I am going over local government ethics codes looking for unusual, but valuable provisions to include in a special section that follows my discussion of the run-of-the-mill provisions.

I would like to share one of these provisions that is truly worth thinking about. It appears in the Windsor, CO ethics code:

§5.2.M. No