making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler

The City Ethics Model Ethics Code includes as an aspirational code the American Society for Professional Administration's (ASPA) Code of Ethics. This is highly unusual, but not unprecedented. One precedent is the Georgia Municipal Association's City of Ethics program, developed in 1999.

The Georgia program requires municipalities to do two things in order to qualify. First, it must adopt a resolution establishing five ethical principles...

Robert Wechsler

Ethics problems and the need for ethics programs are the stuff of cities and, perhaps, larger towns, or so most people think. In small towns, everyone knows everyone else, and people can't get away with unethical conduct. And as for corruption, there simply aren't enough zeros in the town's budget. There's not much to learn from small towns, in terms of municipal ethics. Right?

Middletown Springs, Vermont is a town of 823 (2000 census), and yet its town meeting voted on a proposed...

Robert Wechsler

Another logical fallacy commonly used by municipal officials is the opposite of the Ad Hominem Attack: the Ad Populum ('[appeal] to the people') Defense.

The typical Ad Populum Defense is 'Everybody does it.' There are two simple responses to this. One is, 'How do you know what everybody else does?' In other words, you can't show that what you are saying is true. Another is, 'Even if you could show that everybody does it, that doesn't...

Robert Wechsler

Double-dipping occurs when someone holds two government jobs, usually at two different levels of government. This is not legal in many states, and for a good reason. It sets up many possible conflicts of interest, not the least of which is that when you're doing one job, you're not doing the other. It sometimes means actually dealing with yourself, wearing both your hats at once. It leads to a lot of pork-barrel spending, as local officials use their state power and local connections to...

Robert Wechsler

The highest median income in 2005, and the fastest-growing county in the United States between 2000 and 2005. How does that translate in terms of local government ethics?

Sadly, not very well. The county is Loudoun in Virginia (principal town: Leesburg), not far from Washington, D.C. Although the issue politics is all about the pace of development (sold as "property rights"), the people politics has been all about connections with developers and realtors. Loudoun County provides an...

Robert Wechsler

North Carolina's 2006 state ethics reform turned out the lights, according to an article in yesterday's Charlotte Observer. The new system provides that there will be no public hearings before the new state ethics commission unless the accused asks for one. In many cases, when a case is dismissed or a reprimand is given, no one will ever know.

Hugh Stevens, a Raleigh attorney, is quoted as saying, very aptly, '...