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Robert Wechsler

Earmarks are usually dealt with as a spending and democracy problem. All that money being thrown away on projects no one actually votes to fund.

But earmarks are also a conflict of interest issue, as can be seen in what has come out regarding the New York City Council. I recently wrote about the transparency aspect of the Council’s hidden earmarks. But even if they are not hidden behind gifts to fictitious...

Robert Wechsler

City Ethics’ very own Carla Miller (also the Jacksonville Ethics Officer) is in the news this week with an important municipal ethics dispute. At least one Jacksonville lobbyist refuses to disclose the names of the clients he represents or the issues about which he is lobbying for each client, pursuant to a new ordinance intended to follow state requirements.

For years, Jacksonville lobbyists...

Robert Wechsler

Many municipal codes of ethics, including the City Ethics Model Code (Section 100(15)), contain a provision prohibiting the acceptance of fees and honoraria for articles, appearances, or speeches.

Today’s New York Times Science section contains an article about research scientists starting to refuse fees and honoraria. They...

Robert Wechsler

People use sunshine laws to retaliate against political opponents (it’s easy to find technical violations and use them to show an opponent is not being open; and you don’t even have to find them: newspapers write up baseless allegations just the same).

But it is rare that sunshine laws lead to fisticuffs. According to the Star Press of East Central Indiana, this...

Robert Wechsler

Do ethics board members have a duty to follow more than the letter of their ethics code?

This issue has arisen with respect to the Detroit Board of Ethics. The Board’s chair, attorney Reginald Turner, joined the membership (that is, fundraising) committee of a defense fund for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. A complaint has been filed against the mayor with the Board of Ethics. Therefore, the Board chair is helping to raise funds to defend against a case that may come before the Board. He...

Robert Wechsler

Financial disclosure scares citizens away from sitting on local boards and commissions. This is the “fact” stated every time any level of financial disclosure is discussed. In my state, Connecticut, all the financial disclosure that was required in a recent bill was the name of one’s employer, and yet the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities opposed it with the same old canard.

“Canard” is French for “duck” or, more appropriately in this case, “Duck!” which is effectively what...