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Ethics Commissions/Administration

Robert Wechsler
The ethics commission for the largest American city, and the only one with a truly appropriate title — New York City's Conflicts of Interest Board — is appointed by the city's extremely strong mayor, with council approval.

If this old and highly respected EC were to be made independent of the administration it oversees, it would send an important message to the rest of the country's local...
Robert Wechsler
Here's a tough call. It's a few weeks before a primary election, and you (a local ethics commission member or staff member) learn that a candidate has violated an ethics code provision, and hidden it via a false disclosure. Do you act or do you sit on your hands until after the election?

Often this sort of problem arises when a complaint is filed by an opposing candidate or party member, that is, when the filing is politically motivated. But what should an EC do when there is no...
Robert Wechsler

Standard of proof is a big issue in ethics enforcement, as it is in any enforcement. A year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post on the mishmash of standards of proof in local ethics codes and in the codes of states that have jurisdiction over local government ethics. In many codes there is no stated standard or a worthlessly ambiguous standard. In others, the standard is clear, but a serious obstacle to enforcement...
Robert Wechsler

Good and Bad News from Memphis
The good news from Memphis is that newly-elected mayor A. C. Wharton, Jr. issued an ethics executive order last week (attached; see below). The order's provisions, which do not apply to council and its staff, are less valuable in their own right than as a prod to the council to improve the current ethics code.

Robert Wechsler
After many months of deliberation (and a blog post), yesterday the Palm Beach Board of County Commissioners passed three ordinances, establishing a new ethics and lobbying code, ethics commission, and...
Robert Wechsler
Ethics reform aimed at political opponents is a good way to undermine the whole idea of ethics reform. This is what is happening in San Jose.

San Jose starts off with an odd ethics program. Title 12: Ethics Provisions does not even have a conflict of interest provision, nor does the city have an ethics commission. It is primarily a campaign finance and lobbying law, with a gift...