making local government more ethical

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States and Municipal Ethics

Robert Wechsler
This week, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced a "toolbox" for local governments to create local ethics policies. Local government ethics is already governed by state statutes, but local governments can apparently supplement these rules with local laws and ethics boards. The toolbox consists of a ...
Robert Wechsler
An article on the Texas Watchdog website focuses on a serious loophole in the Texas gift disclosure policy, which applies to local government officials. Section 176.003(a-1) of the Local Government Code (Title 5, Subchapter C) states:
Robert Wechsler
Is political deal-making a government ethics violation? This is a tough area. Government ethics is about the conflict of personal and public interests. Political interests are generally left out of the equation unless non-political benefits are involved. In politics, you are allowed to put your personal interests first, at least until you win.

According to an article in yesterday's Atlanta ...
Robert Wechsler
Update: October 21, 2009 (see below)
Two interesting issues come out of a long, detailed Kansas City Star article yesterday about Missouri political consultant, and recent house speaker, Ron Jetton.

Robert Wechsler
What's an ethics commission to do? Even ethics commissions with teeth, that is, with the ability to fine officials, rarely have a way of actually collecting the fines. And if they do have a way of collecting fines, it can make things look unfair.

Take South Carolina, whose ethics commission has jurisdiction over local government officials.  According to its online debtors' list,...
Robert Wechsler

Update: December 2, 2009 (see below)

I have often complained about how local government officials and attorneys approach government ethics matters in an overly technical manner. Well, ethics commission attorneys can do this, too.

In terms of the language in ethics codes, I think the rule should be, If an ordinary person does not read language a certain way, an ethics commission should not read it that way. If the ethics commission feels certain language...