making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler

I would like to hear how many people have had similar experiences to the one I will describe below, and what people think should be done in response. It concerns conflicts of interest, and the way a discussion of them within the context of a particular possible instance can so easily be turned into a personal, emotional issue, undermining the public's view of the importance of dealing with conflicts.

At a meeting of my own town's executive board in Connecticut (our legislature is a...

Robert Wechsler

Yesterday, the Supreme Court delivered a blow to municipal government employee rights in its decision in Garcetti et al v. Ceballos.

Essentially, Justice Kennedy, for the majority of five, decided to limit the 1968 Pickering balancing test (between the interests of the employee as citizen in commenting on matters of public concern, and the interests of the State as employer in promoting efficiency of public services...

Robert Wechsler

Terry L. Price's new book, Understanding Ethical Failures in Leadership (Cambridge University Press, 2006), provoked in me a great deal of thinking about what is behind the ethical failures of elected and appointed municipal officials. I will be talking in terms of officials, but Price speaks only in terms of leaders in general, with an emphasis on governmental leaders.

His central thesis is that such ethical failures are fundamentally cognitive rather than volitional, that is...

Creating ethics code takes time, expert says

Carla Miller, an ethics officer for Jacksonville, Fla., and a former federal prosecutor, tells city officials, "You are in the upper echelon because you are at least struggling with it."

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, May 19, 2006

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE -- Mayor David N. Cicilline's administration has accused the City Council of dragging its feet on adopting a proposed ethics code, but last night, a national expert validated the council's equivocation.


I am interested in getting some feedback on this point:
In a recent incident, there was perhaps no legal issue, but there was an undeniable perception that something unethical had occurred. What are your views on the thin red line between these points (i.e. "legal" and "perceived as unethical")