making local government more ethical

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County Related

Robert Wechsler
Over the last two days, a new-fangled local government ethics controversy has taken Ohio by storm:  allowing counties to sell advertising on their websites. A law to that effect has been inserted in the pending state budget bill, according to an Associated Press article.

Robert Wechsler
Here are three different recusal case studies:

Public Recusal Is Not Enough
One of the most important things to emphasize about recusal is that recusal at a meeting is not enough. Recusal is supposed to mean withdrawal from involvement in any aspect of a matter where an official has a conflict of interest. Recusal at a meeting is only withdrawal from the public part of a matter. If the official continues to be involved with the matter behind the scenes, it is, in...
Robert Wechsler
In the midst of a big corruption probe, a pair of back-and-forth ethics complaints filed with a nearly toothless ethics commission in El Paso doesn't seem like much. But it does sheds some light on how much El Paso government is about the players rather than the citizens. And it touches on some issues that are important everywhere, including the use of lawsuits to cripple ethics commissions, legal fees for ethics...
Robert Wechsler
Maricopa County (home of Phoenix) is doing an excellent job of showing America's local governments what not to do. In April, I wrote about the conflict that existed when the county attorney, after representing the county board of supervisors as it put together plans and contracts for a new county courthouse, decided to investigate the board's handling of these plans and contracts. The outcry over this conflict led the county attorney to turn the investigation over to another county.
Robert Wechsler
Update (9/30/09)
I tend to focus a lot on weaknesses of ethics codes, but sometimes ethics codes go too far. One reason for this is that they are usually responses to scandals that are criminal in nature, that is, scandals that do not involve conflicts of interest. Another reason is that most people don't understand that ethics codes are really conflict of interest codes, not codes that deal with all of an official's behavior. It's appropriate to have aspirational provisions that...
Robert Wechsler
A three-year FBI investigation of Cuyahoga County (which includes Cleveland) appears to have begun with a sting operation involving building inspectors, where an undercover agent offered bribes, and they were accepted, according to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer...