making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
Last month, I wrote about problems involving municipal bond sales and advice in Tennessee. Yesterday, the state comptroller wrote a guest column explaining what went wrong with municipal bonds and suggesting some of what he will propose today to prevent such problems in the future.

Robert Wechsler
Requiring supermajority votes by ethics commissions to find probable cause or a violation is probably the best obstacle elected officials can place in the way of effective ethics enforcement. This is especially true of the probable cause phase, if there is one.

Robert Wechsler
Here's an ethics story from Orlando with a good ending. It emphasizes what I wrote recently, that government ethics involves dealing responsibly with conflict situations.

Robert Wechsler
Booms and busts are common not only in a financial system. They are also common in government ethics.

Booms are when things are good, when local politicians seem worthy of our trust. Busts are when we find out that things aren't what they seemed. In other words, when there's a scandal.

Robert Wechsler
Who is covered by an ethics code can be very important. In Baltimore, for instance, as I wrote in a recent blog entry, the city solicitor has interpreted the ethics code to require disclosure of gifts only from companies doing business with the city, not from their owners, officers, or employees.

I also wrote recently about jurisdiction over...
Robert Wechsler
One of the principal reasons I have focused my energies on local government ethics is that most people learn their government ethics at the local level. What they see people doing on councils and zoning boards, they do on state legislatures and commissions, and then again at the federal level.

But things go the other way, as well. Disdain for government ethics at the state level can affect the ethics environments of that state's local governments. This appears to be happening in...