making local government more ethical

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States and Municipal Ethics

Robert Wechsler
It was very refreshing to hear Ann Arbor council member Steven Kunselman, in an interview with Jeanine DeLay of A2Ethics, an Ann Arbor-based ethics organization, talking openly, honestly, and intelligently about some local government ethics situations. The two situations he...
Robert Wechsler
According to an article in last week's Economist, last year 22 local councils in Italy were disbanded and taken over by the national government due to alleged infiltration by organized crime. This is an extreme way to deal with a poor local government ethics environment. But it's a very difficult problem for a local government to deal with.

What about over here? According to...
Robert Wechsler
A New Use of a Nonprofit as a Conduit
Pay to play appears to be as creative a field as cellphone apps. An article in the Washington Examiner on Sunday points to a new way to get developer money into an official's pockets via a nonprofit organization. A zoning agreement stipulated that the developer would donate $55,000 to the Business Council as...
Robert Wechsler
Update: August 9, 2012 (see below)

People tend to think that all good government people are alike. The thinking goes that those who favor the improvement of ethics programs also favor such things as term limits, referendums and initiatives, and pension forfeiture by those found to have violated the public's trust. As a matter of fact, I don't favor any of these other good government approaches.

The one I want to talk about in this blog post is referendums. They...
Robert Wechsler
Luis Toro, director of Colorado Watch, wrote an interesting Huffington Post post yesterday about ethics issues relating to Colorado's public trustee system.

Public trustees (one per county) oversee the foreclosure system in the state. They work things out between lenders and homeowners. Most of them are elected county treasurers, and ten of them are appointed by the...
Robert Wechsler
It's a good idea for states to encourage the creation of local government ethics programs by drafting model ethics codes. It's also a good idea for states to require minimal local government ethics provisions. What is not good is model codes and minimal requirements that are not accompanied by explanations and do not provide alternatives and recommendations for improvements. Such codes and requirements can, among other things, provide support for officials who prefer a poor, limited,...