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Ethics Codes

Robert Wechsler
Yet another court decision discussed at the COGEL conference placed First Amendment free speech rights far above the obligations of a government official, employing a strict scrutiny approach where a simple due process (for statutory vagueness) approach would have been sufficient. This time the official is a member of the Sparks (NV) city council, in fact, the same council member who successfully sued to overturn an advisory opinion of the state ethics commission in a case I carefully reviewed...
Robert Wechsler
A Municipal Bid Rigging Scheme Comes to Light
According to an article in the New York Times this week, Banc of America Securities (which recently merged with Merrill Lynch) agreed to pay the SEC and others $137 million to settle charges related to a municipal bond bid-rigging scheme. For those who think competitive bidding rules are enough, this case should make you think otherwise.
Robert Wechsler
Problematic Development
According to Harry Themal's column in yesterday's News Journal, the newly elected county executive of New Castle County (DE) wants to review government processes "top-to-bottom." There is just one catch. According to Themal, land use procedures are most in need of reform, but the new county executive's wife is a big land-use attorney representing local...
Robert Wechsler
I find it fascinating that, although kickbacks (also known as "thanks giving") are one of the central elements of unethical conduct in local governments, I have only mentioned them three times in my blog posts.

Kickbacks are a dirty secret for one principal reason:  they are difficult to prove. Along with bribes, they require hard-to-obtain proof to tie money to conduct. Coincidentally, these are the two forms of conduct that the Supreme Court, in...
Robert Wechsler
Teachers and teachers' family members seem to be just the sort of people to run for school boards. They have either the expertise and/or the interest in education. But with them come conflicts of interest, and these can cast doubt on what they're doing there in the first place.

Teachers in the particular school district generally can't run for school board seats, but many teachers don't live in the districts where they teach. This prohibition often applies to their spouses as well...
Robert Wechsler
Indefinite conflicts can cause a lot of problems for officials. They see them as not yet ripe, not something they should have to deal with yet. But others see them as looming in the future, and want to know how the official plans to deal with them. One such indefinite conflict is the subject of controversy in Tampa, where a council candidate is the executive director of a nonprofit organization that has a large contract with the city to build affordable apartments. This sort of indefinite...