making local government more ethical

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Complicity and Knowledge

Robert Wechsler
Here's a situation from Lafayette Parish, a city of 220,000 in south-central Louisiana, which shows how when one official fails to deal responsibly with his conflicts, he is likely to be complicit in helping other officials deal irresponsibly with their conflicts and with those of their colleagues. When this official is a government attorney, it can cause an entire board or agency to deal irresponsibly with a conflict.

Robert Wechsler
This week, according to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cuyahoga County (which includes Cleveland) passed a new ethics code, largely based on the recommended code drafted in October by the Code of Ethics Workgroup, set up by the Cuyahoga County Transition Advisory Group Executive Committee (the transition referred to is a change in form of government; see...
Robert Wechsler
Seeking Order in Government
All government officials seek order, not just in the sense of law and order, but also in the sense of having everyone know their roles, their authority, and their relationships to other individuals and agencies.

Nonviolent actors seek order in societies where some kinds of disorder are taken for granted, for example, in dictatorships that have usurped authority and destroyed relationships.

In this sense, government ethics seeks...
Robert Wechsler
In his book The Search for a Nonviolent Future, Michael N. Nagler wrote, "Anyone who plucks up the courage to offer an opponent a way out of their conflict can find herself or himself wielding an unexpected power." You may need to read this sentence over a few times before it completely sinks in.

The Courage of Ethics...
Robert Wechsler
Faida Hamdy was a municipal inspector in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. She was not a very respectful municipal official. So when she found that a young fruit vendor did not have a license, she slapped him. She humiliated him in front of others. The fruit vendor set himself on fire, and this set the Arab world on fire, because the same sort of disrespect from government officials was felt throughout the Arab world. Disrespect is a very powerful thing. And so is respect.

Fortunately, the...
Robert Wechsler
I talk a lot about poor ethics environments, probably the single most important element in unethical conduct. But since loyalty is the strongest force in such environments, a great deal of work is done to hide the existence of poor ethics environments. After unethical conduct is discovered, it is rare for anyone to set out just how bad things were.

But sometimes things are so bad, it becomes clear that there aren't just a couple of bad apples, but a whole bad crop...