making local government more ethical

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Local Government Attorneys

Robert Wechsler
As I have noted again and again, there is no more difficult, conflicted role than that of a local government attorney. In small towns, there's not a lot that can be done. But in cities and counties, there are several things that can be done to lessen the local government attorney's conflicts.

Robert Wechsler
A judicial opinion is apparently not enough to put an end to local government officials using the excuse that the local government attorney told them participation in a matter is legal. Nor is the fact that the official's decision whether to participate is not solely a legal decision, but rather a judgment based partially on the language of an ethics code and partially on a determination of what is appropriate under the...
Robert Wechsler
Here are three different recusal case studies:

Public Recusal Is Not Enough
One of the most important things to emphasize about recusal is that recusal at a meeting is not enough. Recusal is supposed to mean withdrawal from involvement in any aspect of a matter where an official has a conflict of interest. Recusal at a meeting is only withdrawal from the public part of a matter. If the official continues to be involved with the matter behind the scenes, it is, in...
Robert Wechsler
In the midst of a big corruption probe, a pair of back-and-forth ethics complaints filed with a nearly toothless ethics commission in El Paso doesn't seem like much. But it does sheds some light on how much El Paso government is about the players rather than the citizens. And it touches on some issues that are important everywhere, including the use of lawsuits to cripple ethics commissions, legal fees for ethics...
Robert Wechsler
Maricopa County (home of Phoenix) is doing an excellent job of showing America's local governments what not to do. In April, I wrote about the conflict that existed when the county attorney, after representing the county board of supervisors as it put together plans and contracts for a new county courthouse, decided to investigate the board's handling of these plans and contracts. The outcry over this conflict led the county attorney to turn the investigation over to another county.
Robert Wechsler
See update below
What is a local government ethics commission's role when a government official has done something illegal or unethical that has nothing to do with the official's work in government? That's the question facing the Knox County (TN) Ethics Committee, according to an article in yesterday's Knoxville ...