making local government more ethical

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Family Members/Nepotism

Robert Wechsler
 A few days ago, I wrote a blog post about how several government officials in Wausau mishandled a conflict situation involving the purchase of property fixed up with an interest-free loan from HUD. Yesterday's The State of South Carolina covers two other HUD loan conflict situations in Columbia, which are...
Robert Wechsler

"I'm following my own path."

--Jean Sarkozy, 23-year-old son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The young Sarkozy, who is studying law (he does not have a college degree yet) is the main candidate for chair of EPAD, a quasi-governmental agency that manages the La Defense financial district on the western outskirts of Paris. His father held the same position early in his career.

The young Sarkozy...
Robert Wechsler
Recusal is a touchy subject for government officials, for two principal reasons. One, withdrawing from a matter can appear to constitute an admission of misconduct. This is because so many people, and even ethics codes, consider it wrong to have a conflict. Actually, recusing oneself is a way of dealing responsibly with a conflict, and is the opposite of misconduct.

Two, raising the issue of a conflict can disclose information the official would rather keep personal. After all, the...
Robert Wechsler
Privatizing local government functions can cause conflict of interest problems, but at least contractors can be held to contracts and replaced when they run afoul of ethics or other laws or requirements. The same is not necessarily true when non-profit organizations take over local government functions not as contractors or grant recipients (as with social service agencies), but as partial or full replacements.

Robert Wechsler
Explaining a political decision on the basis of government ethics, when that really isn't the reason, can lead to government ethics reform made on the basis of politics. That's what appears to have happened in Boerne (TX), a small "city" of 6,000 residents outside San Antonio.

Robert Wechsler
In May I wrote a blog post about a so-called ethics emergency in Corpus Christi, declared by a lame-duck council at its last meeting. This so-called emergency was the excuse for pushing through ethics reforms without running them by the city's ethics commission or allowing public discussion. The new council quickly suspended the reforms, pending review by the ethics commission.

At least that was the excuse the new council used...