making local government more ethical

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Misuse of Office/Special

Robert Wechsler
When is a conflict sufficient to require an official to resign (or not take a position in the first place)? This question involves a lot of gray area, and little black and white. What sorts of interest are enough to undermine public trust, and what sorts of interest provide opportunities for officials to benefit unfairly from their positions? Here are three recent situations where an official's external job was seen or not seen as creating a conflict serious enough to require resignation.
Robert Wechsler
As I wrote in a blog entry nearly two years ago, Memphis has broken records in terms of convicted public officials. But its mayor of seventeen years, Willie Herenton, has stood above it all. At least until now.

One result of the many convictions in Memphis was a new ethics ordinance in 2007 (not directly accessible via the city website search mechanism)...
Robert Wechsler
A year ago, I wrote about New York City Council's earmark funds and the ways they were being abused. Atlanta's council members have a different sort of fund, not intended to help their constituents, but intended to help themselves. They too are open to abuse and, according to an article in yesterday's...
Robert Wechsler
See update below

Ethics is popular in Illinois right now, so popular that two mayoral candidates in the Village of Niles, a northwest suburb of Chicago (pop. 30,000), are putting it at the center of their campaigns. But it's not ethics as most of us like to think of it.
Robert Wechsler

Memphis has been the scene of some serious corruption in the last few years. And for years before that, as well, although they say that in the old days the corruption was institutionalized, so that there were rules about how you could and could not take advantage of your office.

In round numbers, in the last six years, 66 officials, employees, and contractors have been found guilty of various sorts of government-related crimes. In a city of only 650,000 people, that puts Memphis in...

Robert Wechsler

There are municipal ethics issues that will never find their way into any ethics code, but which should certainly be covered in ethics training courses. Many of these issues involve the relationship between government and businesses.

If there were no money to be made in and through municipal government, there would be far less need for ethics programs. Power does corrupt, but it's no accident that corruption so often involves relations with developers and contractors. It's also no...