making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Music to my ears in an order yesterday from the federal court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, in a case involving an unsuccessful attempt by certain Wisconsin state legislators to claim the attorney-client privilege with respect to documents relating to redistricting. What resonates so nicely is the way the court considered state...
Robert Wechsler
Newspapers aren't called the fourth estate for nothing. But in cities these days, they are more like the third estate, more important, that is, than the clergy. In fact, their investigations and editorials can bring down mayors, council presidents, even parties.

Local dailies may be losing money hand over fist, and weeklies, online papers, and blogs have taken away some of their power, but the dailies still have more power with respect to politicians and policies than anyone else...
Robert Wechsler
On Saturday, I attended a one-day conference on Institutional Corruption sponsored by the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University (videos of it will eventually appear here). Although local government was scarcely mentioned (there was one image of a painting that portrayed the 1930s machine in Kansas City, MO), many ideas that were discussed are applicable to local government ethics.

Robert Wechsler
In November 2010, Broward County, FL voters approved an ethics code for officials of the cities in the county (the code also applies to the county commissioners). The code finally became effective January 2, 2012.

Three cities in Broward County (home to Ft. Lauderdale) have put referendum questions on the January 31 ballot seeking to strike the applicability of certain of the code's provisions to their cities' officials. The principal one is the requirement to disclose one's...
Robert Wechsler
Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote an excellent op-ed piece for the New York Times last Sunday. It was about disclosure, more specifically about the way disclosure sometimes neither leads to more transparency, nor prevents what it is intended to prevent. In the government ethics situation, that would mean preventing misconduct.

Technical compliance, especially with the...
Robert Wechsler
As I near the end of writing my local government ethics book, I am going over local government ethics codes looking for unusual, but valuable provisions to include in a special section that follows my discussion of the run-of-the-mill provisions.

I would like to share one of these provisions that is truly worth thinking about. It appears in the Windsor, CO ethics code:

§5.2.M. No