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States and Municipal Ethics

Robert Wechsler
An article in the Bismarck (ND) Tribune this weekend raised the issue of when a board or commission member may withdraw from a matter in which he feels he has a conflict, but where there is not a direct, pecuniary interest. It turns out that, back in 2007, the Burleigh County state's attorney had asked the attorney general for...
Robert Wechsler
Transparency, although not generally part of a local ethics code, is central to a local government's ethics environment. A lack of transparency is both a tell-tale sign that things are wrong, and an impediment to discussing ethics issues and enforcing ethics violations. Unfortunately, ethics codes do have confidential information provisions, making it appear to those who do not understand government ethics that it is more important to hide confidential information than to let the sunshine in...
Robert Wechsler
For any speech in debate in either house, no member shall be questioned in any other place, except by the ethics commission as set forth  in Article III, section 8 of this Constitution.

No, this is not the text of a dream I had last night. This is the text of an amendment to the Rhode Island constitution proposed yesterday by five state representatives in House Bill 2001-H 5410. The Rhode...
Robert Wechsler
Oklahoma's Open Meeting Act, which applies to local governments, ends with an unusual provision. That provision is the only provision in the act that deals with enforcement. It says that a willful violation of a provision is a misdemeanor, and that someone guilty of a violation may be fined up to $500 and/or imprisoned in a county jail for up to one year.

Is there any other nation in the world that would...
Robert Wechsler
Unfunded Open Meetings Mandate in California
Local governments' protests against unfunded state mandates might, in this time of spending cuts, lead to the undermining of state ethics laws that apply to local governments. The first sign of this is in California, of course.

Robert Wechsler
Local party committees have a great deal of power. Most of the people we vote for have been selected and, where allowed by law, endorsed by local party committees. Most of the people who are appointed to boards and commmissions have also been approved by local party committees. In most places, they determine who runs our communities.

One of the principal roles a political party has, at least in theory, is assuring the public that its candidates have been screened in some valuable...