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Model Code

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This is the place to discuss negotiating with unions regarding penalties that apply to their municipal employee members. This is a sensitive area, where open discussion could be especially helpful to preventing friction by considering union perspectives and requirements as part of the process of preparating or amending an ethics code.

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Some municipalities limit some provisions to certain officials, so that, for instance, employees do not have to go through the same level of annual disclosure as officials do, or only officials and employees dealing with contracts, development, zoning, etc. need file annual disclosure forms. This is the place to discuss different levels of application of an ethics code's provisions to different levels and types of official and employee.

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Robert Wechsler

The ethics reforms coming out of New York and Utah provide two contrasting, yet equally questionable approaches. In New York state, ethics legislation was negotiated among the new governor, the assembly speaker, and the senate majority leader, behind closed doors. In Utah, the governor said he would issue an executive order.

The background for each of these approaches is the same: the legislature could not or would not come up with ethics reform on its own. The Utah governor said he'd...

Robert Wechsler

As I state in my comments to section 207 of the model code, cutting the funding of ethics commissions is a popular way for politicians to prevent investigations from happening. Therefore, ethics reformers are always looking for new ways to ensure funding.

In Oregon, legislators decided to turn to local governments as a dedicated source of funding of an ethics commission that oversees local government officials.

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Robert Wechsler

One of the most serious obstacles to ethics training is cynicism. For example, a councilman in South Lake Tahoe, California said, according to a recent article in the Tahoe Daily Tribune, that the California requirement of ethics training for all municipal officials is an indication of a breakdown in trust in local government and "It's not going to change behavior. [It] creates a job for someone."


Robert Wechsler

How can an ethics commission be truly independent?

In the model code I wrote as the beginning of what I hope will be a long public conversation about all aspects of municipal ethics, I suggest that a municipality's legislative body appoint members from a list given to them by the local League of Women Voters.

I did not mean to prefer this particular organization, but to get people thinking (and talking) about the possibility of having an independent,...