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States and Municipal Ethics

Robert Wechsler
“The concern with potential corruption does not stop just because the relationship has entered the bedroom.’’

For those of you who think my blog needs a little spice, this is a good ice breaker. These are the words of Kathay Feng, head of California Common Cause, spoken at a meeting of the Fair Political Practices Commission, California's state ethics commission, which has jurisdiction over local officials and employees (quoted from...
Robert Wechsler
Yet another brief has been filed in the Carrigan v. Commission on Ethics of the State of Nevada case, this time the EC's supplemental brief on remand to the Nevada Supreme Court.

The principal issue discussed in this brief is vagueness, which has stood in the background behind First Amendment issues of free...
Robert Wechsler
Another serious problem posed by making a legislative immunity defense in the local government ethics context can be seen from reading the recommendation of the investigating panel of the Stamford (CT) board of ethics. In the section that provides reasons for dismissal of a complaint brought against a council member, the panel wrote:
    The case also presents significant legal...
Robert Wechsler

How you present an ethics provision can make all the difference. Take a pay-to-play ordinance proposed in Fort Wayne, which would limit the amount of contributions and gifts that can be given to city officials by an individual or entity if it wants to have a no-bid contract with the city.

Robert Wechsler
In Georgia, Community Improvement Districts (CIDs) are a creation of state government (they're in the amended 1984 state constitution) that involves local governments in serious potential conflicts of interest, in order to allow developers to fund their public infrastructure with tax-free bonds. CIDs are a clever idea, but cleverness is often inconsistent with government ethics. Smith, Gambrell & Russell, a law firm, has...
Robert Wechsler
Sometimes, conflicts are built right into ethics laws, partly because it is in the political interest of those with conflicts, and partly because they don't even view those laws as ethics laws.

A good example of this is the Connecticut law (CGS §9-623) that places enforcement of municipal campaign finance laws in the hands of city and town clerks. In Connecticut, clerks are often elected...