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Ethics Commissions/Administration

Robert Wechsler
One problem in government ethics is that when conflict situations are dealt with responsibly, there is rarely a record of them. They pass quietly, failing to end up in the newspaper, at an ethics commission, or in court. So generally we're stuck learning from the times when conflict situations are dealt with irresponsibly. One of these situations, in Wausau, Wisconsin, made it to court, and a decision this week by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin sets the facts out...
Robert Wechsler
What's an ethics commission to do? Even ethics commissions with teeth, that is, with the ability to fine officials, rarely have a way of actually collecting the fines. And if they do have a way of collecting fines, it can make things look unfair.

Take South Carolina, whose ethics commission has jurisdiction over local government officials.  According to its online debtors' list,...
Robert Wechsler
When Is a Confidentiality Waiver Not a Confidentiality Waiver?
It is common for ethics codes to allow respondents in ethics proceedings to waive confidentiality and make the proceeding public. This is what South Carolina governor Mark Sanford did, according to an article in The State back in August.

"Sanford said a...

Robert Wechsler
It's official. According to an article in yesterday's Salt Lake City Tribune, a comprehensive ethics reform petition has been okayed for distribution, with the goal of placing it on the November 2010 ballot. That requires 95,000 signatures on a 21-page petition that is far from easy reading.

Robert Wechsler
The business coalition in Palm Beach County (FL) really gets it. One reason is that City Ethics' Carla Miller has provided advice. The coalition consists of Leadership Palm Beach County, the Palm Beach County Business Forum, the Palm Beach County Economic Council, and the Voters Coalition. Its positions are best stated in a short essay available at the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County site.

Robert Wechsler
One of the most difficult things for a government official to do is to determine whether his or her conduct creates an appearance of impropriety. Partially blinded by ego, surrounding yes-people, and the government's ethical culture, an official often finds nothing wrong with conduct that many or even most outsiders -- that is, citizens -- find questionable or downright wrong. It is hard for them to put themselves in citizen shoes in order to see whether their conduct might appear improper.