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Ethics Codes

Robert Wechsler
In a long cover story in last week's Fort Worth Weekly, Peter Gorman looked at the state of government ethics in Fort Worth and, most important, some proposed changes to its ethics program that take it in the wrong direction. Since it was the only article on the proposals, and Gorman paraphrased me often (based on an interview), I was waiting for other local newspapers to jump in and confirm what Gorman...
Robert Wechsler
Is it important that an ethics complaint be based on information that is known personally? Some ethics codes require this. But the fact is that many ethics violations are done secretly. It can take some serious, professional investigation to obtain the facts and relevant documents. This is why investigations by journalists are so valuable. What they uncover is often used by citizens, good government organizations, and others as the basis for an ethics complaint. And sometimes a government...
Robert Wechsler
(Note: This post has been revised, based on a response from Steve Berlin, executive director of Chicago's ethics board. I had made the silly assumption that the underlined language in the ethics reform ordinance was new. It turns out that much of that language has been there for some time. So I've deleted some comments and made changes to others.)

Recently, the Chicago council passed a series of ethics reforms (attached; see below) in response to the first report of the city...
Robert Wechsler
Ethics Code Amendment Without a Scandal
Sometimes conflict situations, when they are handled responsibly, lead to changes in an ethics code. This happened recently in Prince William County, Virginia, according to an article on the website.

A county supervisor wanted to give $100,000 of his discretionary funds to his...
Robert Wechsler
Should council members do business with each other or with the mayor? Another way to put this question is, does their doing business together give rise to a conflict of interest?

The situation that gave rise to these questions came out recently in Hoboken, NJ. According to...
Robert Wechsler
It's a good idea for states to encourage the creation of local government ethics programs by drafting model ethics codes. It's also a good idea for states to require minimal local government ethics provisions. What is not good is model codes and minimal requirements that are not accompanied by explanations and do not provide alternatives and recommendations for improvements. Such codes and requirements can, among other things, provide support for officials who prefer a poor, limited,...