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

With the first quotation of the week, let's start at the beginning:

We become just by doing just acts. -Aristotle

Robert Wechsler

Understatement: After one county district attorney recused himself from prosecuting the man who hired him for his job, the neighboring county district attorney accepted the case, despite the fact that he leased office space and had accepted a thousand-dollar campaign contribution from the suspect's nephew, who happened to be listed as the suspect's defense attorney. 'To suggest that that's a conflict of interest is to suggest that I have an integrity problem, which is simply not the...

Robert Wechsler

It is difficult to be an ethical politician or administrator, or even a citizen, without a basic understanding of logic. It is also difficult to appreciate others' unethical conduct without a basic understanding of logic.

By logic I do not mean the opposite of irrationality, but rather critical thinking, and specifically an understanding of logical fallacies. Logical fallacies are probably the most frequent form of unethical conduct in municipal government. They involve the conscious...

Robert Wechsler

My blog entries must often seem like attacks on business interests. One reason is that conflicts are usually about personal financial interests conflicting with a government official's obligations to the public, and our democratic values require that the official's fiduciary obligations take precedence. And where there are financial interests, there are usually businesses.

But that is not always the case. Obligations themselves can conflict, without any direct financial interest. The...

Robert Wechsler

Some towns have proximity rules, that is, rules that require officials to recuse themselves from any matter dealing with property within a certain distance of property they own or rent. But it is hard to have a set number of feet or yards. A distance appropriate to an urban environment is very different from one appropriate to a rural environment.

There are considerations to balance here. On one side, there is the good of making ethical guidance as clear as possible. On the other side...

Robert Wechsler

You don't hear too much about recidivism in the municipal ethics world. One reason may be that it happens, but often at different levels, as a politician moves up the ladder.

Take Congressional Representative Gary Miller, for instance. According to a recent article in The Hill, he got his start when he was a member of the Diamond Bar (CA) City Council. In his role as council member, he...