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Ethics Codes

Robert Wechsler
In an April 2013 blog post, I wrote about the problems surrounding a Florida state senator's request for a state audit of Palm Beach County's EC. That report, drafted by the state legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, has recently been published, and it includes the EC's response to the report (attached; see below).

Robert Wechsler
Party Committee Members on EC
According to an article in the Hartford Courant this week, a Newington, CT mayoral candidate, and council minority leader, who has made ethics allegations against the incumbent mayor has chosen not to file an ethics complaint because, she says, two of the four members of the town's ethics board are also members of...
Robert Wechsler
A colleague asked me recently about the argument that withdrawal from participation by a legislator, who cannot delegate to someone else, "disenfranchises" that legislator's constituents. Since disenfranchisement is a terrible thing, the argument goes, legislators cannot be asked to withdraw from participation, but only to disclose their conflicts.

I have not sufficiently countered this argument here in my blog or in...
Robert Wechsler
Conflicts of interest are not always positive, any more than relationships are always positive. And conflicts are based on relationships.

We tend to think of an official using his position to help a family member or business associate. But sometimes officials use their position to harm someone with whom they have a negative relationship, anyone from a former in-law (the bum who dumped my sister) or current in-law (that woman who's driving my brother crazy) to a former business...
Robert Wechsler
It is unethical for a local official to violate a law, especially the city or county charter. But such a violation is usually not a government ethics violation, because it has nothing to do with conflicts of interest. It may be a misuse of office, but it is not a misuse of office to benefit oneself, one's family, or one's business associates.

And yet some ethics codes contain a provision making a legal or charter violation an ethics violation. Here is one from Forest Park, GA, a...
Robert Wechsler
In my book Local Government Ethics Programs, I have argued for the language of "benefit" instead of the language of "interest." (for some of the reasons why, click here and search for "terminology"). When a colleague asked me for a list of the jurisdictions that do, in fact, use the language of "benefit," I did some eye-opening research. Here are the results, based on the ethics codes in...