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Robert Wechsler

Laws are highly over-rated. This is one reason why the City Ethics Model Code Project is not just about codes, but the centerpiece of a wide-ranging discussion of all the issues involved in creating, improving, and maintaining local government ethics programs.

Laws may be too highly over-rated, but budgets and priorities are too often under-rated. Take Denver. Denver requires political candidates to disclose the employers and occupations of anyone who gives them $200 or more. And yet...

Robert Wechsler

Rushworth Kidder's 2005 book Moral Courage is something all municipal officials should read. It's not only a good introduction to ethics, but it focuses on the quality that is most important to create and maintain an ethical environment in any organization, and especially in governments. But since you probably won't read the book, here are a few of Kidder's points that will most profit municipal officials.

Moral courage's principal purpose is to take values from the theoretical...

Robert Wechsler

Early on, I did a blog entry on apology. I even included apology in 107(1) of the Model Ethics Code, as a stated option for officials, so that their municipality does not have to go to the trouble of investigating their actions and holding hearings.

Yesterday, I attended a lecture by Nancy Berlinger of the Hastings Center in Garrison, NY on apology in the medical context. I think...

Robert Wechsler

Buried in my blog entry on the Louisiana legislators' attempt to undermine recusal on constitutional grounds is a short discussion of what I refer to as 'the public-interested side' of recusal. I would like to talk a little more about this, because I think the failure to discuss it enough is a serious problem.

When a government official has a conflict of interest, he or she is forced to choose between conflicting obligations. We all...

Robert Wechsler

Before I got around to putting up a blog entry on the ethics mess in Louisiana, it took a turn for the worse. What started as two legislators protecting the jobs, respectively, of their father and their brother, has turned into a full-fledged constitutional battle that could undermine the concept of recusal for conflicts of interest nationwide.

As it is now, ethics codes usually require that legislators, state and municipal, refrain from participating or voting in matters where they...

Robert Wechsler

No, the class exception does not except classy people from ethics codes. It excepts people from recusing themselves when the interests they have that would be affected by an act or decision are similar to a broad class of people. The biggest class is, of course, taxpayers. Municipal officials can vote for budgets even though their taxes are affected by it. Other classes excepted without controversy include homeowners, renters, members of a pension plan, and business owners. But the smaller...