making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
There are some interesting ethics issues being raised in Madison, Wisconsin.

The mayor of Madison was asked to co-chair a committee that will be raising funds to sponsor a national conference of urban designers and developers to be held in Madison. One job for the mayor would be to send out fundraising letters and follow up with phone calls to companies and individuals, including some that do business with the city.

The mayor responsibly asked for an advisory opinion...
Robert Wechsler
This post will be of special interest to those who enjoy the occasional ironies that arise in the world of government ethics. According to an article in today's New York Times, the woman named to be New York City's new schools chancellor has decided to resign from her positions on the boards of Coca Cola, IBM, and Hearst Magazines (where she is chair), at a great financial cost to her. Of these three...
Robert Wechsler
Should advisory board and task force members be excepted from conflict of interest rules? Jurisdictions disagree about this. Some believe that, when a board has no authority to act or implement, the usual rules should not apply. The principal argument is that there are times when a government needs to get people with opposing interests together — such as business and union interests — in order to hash out community problems. Another argument is the need for expertise.

Robert Wechsler
It's important not to have pension board members with serious conflicts of interest, such as a personal interest in the board's investments, or acting as providers of investment products (see my blog post on California reforms prohibiting such conflicts).

But it is equally important for a pension board not to work with others who have conflicts. This issue has arisen with respect to...
Robert Wechsler
On Independence Day weekend, it's worth remembering that independence does not come cheap, and that there are some things that are more important than independence.

One of those things is the public trust. There is a serious cost to our society when government officials place their independence from ethics enforcement above the public trust, that is, when government officials insist on legislative immunity. And there is a cost to officials, too:  their trial not by a neutral body...
Robert Wechsler
I've been meaning for a long time to take a long second look at the City Ethics Model Code provision on the revolving door that many officials walk through between government and firms that do business with government. It's a complex matter, and local governments as well as states with jurisdiction...