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

One of the most serious problems with municipal ethics codes is their unreadability. Few of those who write them seem to consider the capabilities of the code's audience: municipal officials and employees without a legal education.

In 1998, the Securities and Exchange Commission insisted that documents intended to disclose information to the public should be written in plain English, and to help with the process, it put together a Plain English Handbook: How to Create Clear SEC...

Robert Wechsler

This year Arizona will vote on a ballot initiative that will give one lucky voter in each election a $1 million prize. Is this an experiment that should be tried?

The arguments against this initiative are many, but a bit too easy. It's just a gimmick. It's public bribery (and possibly even illegal on this count). It won't work. People shouldn't be paid to vote; they should vote out of a sense of civic duty. People who vote in order to win a prize won't research the candidates. It will...

Robert Wechsler

Patronage is the most basic of all municipal conflicts of interest. It involves not only self-interest (my job), but also a variety of organizational interests (my agency, party, ethnic or racial group, friends). In every little patronage decision, all of these interests take precedence over the public interest. And yet patronage is also the most commonly practiced, and accepted, of all municipal conflicts of interest. Nowhere has patronage been practiced and accepted more than in Chicago....

Robert Wechsler

As canaries were to mines, apologies are to a municipality's ethical environment. If you don't see a good number of sincere apologies, then ethics and accountability are probably dead in your town. In addition, insincere apologies are a sure sign that the town's political leaders are manipulative and trying to get something for nothing.

According to Aaron Lazare, in his excellent On Apology (Oxford University Press, 2004), an apology is "an encounter between two...

Robert Wechsler

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision in Randall v. Sorrell is a setback for municipal efforts at campaign finance reform (CFR). CFR is a municipal ethics issue, because the justification for campaign spending and contribution limits is that such limits help to prevent corruption.

The main decision of Justice Breyer, joined by Justices Roberts and Alito, was that campaign expenditure limits continue to be...

from the June 26, 2006 edition -
At a seminar in California, municipal leaders learn how to stay on the straight and narrow in times of temptation.