making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler

Philadelphia's Committee of Seventy may be a little gray (it recently celebrated its 100th birthday), but in its 'reborn' form (it had taken the limited role of monitoring election activities) it still knows how to take a stand and make a difference. It has made ethics a central issue of the upcoming mayoral election by putting together a four-page Ethics Agenda and asking all mayoral candidates to commit to its ethics reforms,...

Robert Wechsler

A survey commissioned by Tiller, a consulting company that specializes in what it calls "cause commerce," found a gaping leadership void when it comes to social responsibility.

People want to do more good, get more involved in their communities, but they don't know how, the survey concludes. And according to Tiller, business is uniquely positioned to fill the leadership void.

Or is it? Isn't that what government is for?...

Robert Wechsler

"Passion" is not the first word that comes to mind when one thinks about municipal ethics (but it would be interesting to know what word does first come to mind). And yet passion is what you can find in an article and on-line discussion about a current conflict controversy in Billings, Montana.

At first glance, it seems to be a minor conflict problem (which is what many discussants passionately...

Robert Wechsler

One thing that's good about local government is that so much of it is done by volunteers. Volunteers aren't professional politicians. They have something better to do with their time.

Yes, most of them do. But for many, government service is central to what they do with the great bulk of their time.

An article in the Alamogordo, New Mexico Daily News (12/27/06) focuses on the most basic and, apparently,...

Robert Wechsler

The first antitrust probe of the municipal bond market began in November, and except for one article from Bloomberg, it has been entirely ignored.

According to the Bloomberg article, the Justice Department's Antitrust Division is looking for evidence of bid rigging, that is, collusion between banks and brokers to fix prices on guaranteed investment contracts (GICs). GICs are arrangements by...

Robert Wechsler

Local government attorneys have special conflict of interest problems. Should there be ethics rules particularly aimed toward them?

Here's a recent example of a situation that could have been prevented by such rules. In Reading, Pennsylvania, a city councilman asked the city's Board of Ethics for an advisory opinion concerning the fact that the Reading Area Water Authority had contracts with a company owned by the authority's executive director. The Board of Ethics determined that...

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