making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
The FBI had to work hard for years to get a grand jury indictment of former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin yesterday (a searchable PDF of the indictment is attached; see below).

A lot of what occurred could have been stopped a long time ago if the city and state had better ethics laws and the city's ethics board was able to initiate complaints and hold public hearings on ethics issues that came to its attention. It appears that every time I read the indictment of a mayor or council...
Robert Wechsler
Is it enough for a local official to be "not guilty"? This is the question that has been raised with respect to a Tamarac, FL city commissioner who was found not guilty of bribery in December, according to a column by Michael Mayo this week in the Sun-Sentinel.

Soon after she was found not guilty, the governor...
Robert Wechsler
Canadian mayors don't appear to be having a good time of it lately, ethicswise. Montreal's mayor resigned, Toronto's mayor was dismissed by a judge, and now it looks like the conflict situations of Winnipeg's mayor will be his downfall if he runs for a fourth term, according to...
Robert Wechsler
With the frequent confusion of person and office, sometimes it's not that easy to tell the difference between a gift to a local government agency and a gift to its director. This confusion can open an agency director to accusations of ethical misconduct.

This is what has happened in Baltimore. According to an article in the...
Robert Wechsler
Independent agencies, especially those with lots of money to spend and contracts to enter into, require not just ethics policies, but a comprehensive, independent ethics program. This rarely acknowledged fact has been made clear once again by an external audit of an agency that proved completely unable to self-regulate its officials' and employees' conflicts of interest. The agency is the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which...
Robert Wechsler
It is important to bring contractors into an ethics program, requiring them to disclose gifts their employees make to officials, and to deal responsibly with possible conflicts they are aware of. Businesses tend to deal with such things internally. Bringing them into an ethics program requires them to recognize that dealing with conflict situations internally is not enough.

The fact is that most ethics programs do not place sufficient requirements on contractors. Often, ethics...