making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
“There’s no conflict,” the mayor said last night. “It wouldn’t be a story if his name wasn’t Menino.” (from a recent Boston Herald article)

This is Boston's mayor, Thomas M. Menino, speaking about his son's year-old job for a construction company that has done a great deal of business with the city, which regularly gets permits from the city, and which has given a lot of...
Robert Wechsler
The status of a local government attorney is important. An external local government attorney, that is, one not employed full-time by the government, is still seen as the top legal official in town, someone whose word is effectively law, especially at government meetings. Such an attorney is also seen as representing the public interest whenever the government is involved.

But part-time, external local government attorneys have mouths to feed, and they are often approached by...
Robert Wechsler
Here's an interesting case study from Council Bluffs, IA. According to an article in yesterday's Daily Nonpareil, there is an issue involving whether a new county board member who sits on...
Robert Wechsler
Self-promotion is the ultimate form of placing one's own interests over the public interest, but we expect it from politicians. It's an ego thing. It has no place in an ethics code.

But the four-term-plus sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ (which includes Phoenix and Scottsdale) has turned self-promotion into an extreme sport.
Robert Wechsler
The situation discussed in the previous blog entry also provides a good example of why it is important to have a contract avoidance provision in a local government ethics code. Here is the one in the City Ethics Model Code:

Any contract, agreement, or other business transaction entered into by or with the city which results in or from a...

Robert Wechsler
How do you deal with a department head who helps creates a conflict of interest problem that does not apply to him personally? Few ethics codes contain complicity provisions that deal with this problem. The City Ethics Model Code complicity provision begins: "No one may, directly or indirectly, induce, encourage, or aid anyone to violate any provision of this code...."