making local government more ethical

Save time and effort

by reading our introduction to local government ethics or using the City Ethics Model Code. Also check out our top ten lists of books, or movies.

Open Source Tools

A review of the various products of Carla's network fellowship at the Safra Center for Ethics @ Harvard University.

Review our Publications

We now have several publications available in various digital formats, including all major e-Reader formats! Please go HERE to view.

Session Materials

Session Notes for recent presentations by Carla Miller. e.g. #UNRIG 2018

Robert Wechsler

'No Retreat, No Surrender: One Man's Fight.' If only this were the title of a civil rights leader's memoir. But no civil rights leader would talk about 'one' man's fight; it was a group effort. Only someone who falsely sees himself as walking into a sunset alone after a gunfight would use that subtitle for his memoir.

The memoir is Tom DeLay's. It is a title chosen by someone who sees himself as an unrepentant victim.

Click here to...

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

Connecticut House Speaker James A. Amann has been receiving a great deal of criticism for asking lobbyists for contributions to the charity he works for as a paid fundraiser (including criticism from me: see my blog entry on fundraising problems). He has insisted that his solicitations are legal, and they probably are, since it cannot be proven that he directly received part of the money contributed (however, he did receive $67,500 last year...

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...