making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
They have various names, such as councils of governments (COGs), joint powers authorities (JPAs), and regional councils or commissions, but whatever names they have, these local government associations are often left outside of both local and state government ethics programs. And yet, as the term "joint powers authorities" implies, they do wield power and do spend or affect the spending of money, often huge amounts of money in transportation, water, and other construction projects.
Robert Wechsler
There is a section of my new book Local Government Ethics Programs (click and scroll down to subsection 9) on the need for more transparency in the provision of ethics advice. What I just realized is that this is another government ethics topic on which Stephen Colbert, who has...
Robert Wechsler
Despite writing this blog for six years, I keep finding important areas of government ethics that I have not discussed. One such area involves dealing with the possible conflicts of outside auditors. Large cities and counties have internal auditors or comptrollers, but most local governments employ the services of external auditing firms, just as companies do. These auditors have special duties toward their clients, that is, to the community, not to the individuals who hire them and with whom...
Robert Wechsler
In recent years, Florida's elected officials have shown a great deal of leadership in the field of unethical and criminal misconduct. The state has a weak state ethics commission, which has jurisdiction over local officials, and until recently only one good local government ethics program, in Miami/Dade County (Jacksonville and Palm Beach County joined this list with ethics reform last year). The major voices in government ethics in Florida have, sadly, been grand juries.

The need...
Robert Wechsler

"Trying to protect public officials from warrantless ethics complaints is a fruitless task; there will always be some who make outrageous claims about the behavior of those at city hall.

"Hiding such complaints from the public view, however, will not make them go away. It’s better for the public to learn who is crying wolf — along with those who have discovered a fox in the henhouse — than to shield such things under the cloak of secrecy and the notion of protecting reputations...

Robert Wechsler
Luis Toro, the director of Colorado Ethics Watch, raised an important local government ethics issue in a recent Huffington Post post. It is a problem that is not peculiar to Colorado. It is also a problem that could benefit from a government ethics approach.

Here is the problem in a nutshell: "Although the Open Records Act specifies a charge of only 25 cents per page for...