making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Some lawyers abuse or misrepresent the lawyer-client privilege and client confidentiality to protect their own unethical conduct. But no one does it better than elected government officials who also happen to be lawyers, and have the ability to draft ethics laws.

A report by the New York City Bar Association, Reforming New York State's Financial Disclosure...
Robert Wechsler
I continue to be thankful for Sarah Palin's incredible ability to get pedestrian government ethics issues into the public eye. This time it's the use of private e-mails for public business, according to an article in yesterday's New York Times.

Robert Wechsler
When I started getting involved with my town's government several years ago, I quickly found that limited access to budget and other financial information was a serious problem. The town government would not even put the annual budget online, despite the fact that my town has town meetings to discuss the budget and a budget referendum thereafter. It was clear that the board of selectmen and the department heads did not want the public to be able to prepare for these meetings and ask difficult...
Robert Wechsler
When Is a Confidentiality Waiver Not a Confidentiality Waiver?
It is common for ethics codes to allow respondents in ethics proceedings to waive confidentiality and make the proceeding public. This is what South Carolina governor Mark Sanford did, according to an article in The State back in August.

"Sanford said a...

Robert Wechsler
Government ethics policies sometimes clash. The most common clash involving ethics commissions is with transparency laws.

Like any government body, ethics commissions would prefer not to discuss many sorts of matters in public, both to protect the parties involved and because it is uncomfortable to discuss many ethics matters in public. Because counsel is present during most such discussions, ECs (and their lawyers) often feel that such discussions are privileged. There are also...
Robert Wechsler
Who should pay for a lack of government transparency, the officials keeping the secrets or the citizens who lack access to information?