making local government more ethical

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Ethics Officers

Robert Wechsler
With the frequent confusion of person and office, sometimes it's not that easy to tell the difference between a gift to a local government agency and a gift to its director. This confusion can open an agency director to accusations of ethical misconduct.

This is what has happened in Baltimore. According to an article in the...
Robert Wechsler
A presidential election day is a good time to consider how vague, character-based ethics rules can be misused.

According to an article in the October 27 Economist, the Iranian constitution, for example, requires a presidential candidate to have the attributes of "trustworthiness and piety." Iraq's requires that a presidential candidate have "a...
Robert Wechsler
According to an article in the San Antonio Express-News this week, San Antonio's deputy city manager is concerned about whether he mishandled a conflict situation. It involved his participation on a bid review committee for a $300 million contract for an expansion to the city's convention center. While on the bid review committee, he interviewed for...
Robert Wechsler
This is the first of a series of looks at the ethics programs of smaller cities, towns, and counties. These local governments have the resources to create an independent, comprehensive ethics program, but they rarely do. It is valuable to look at both the good ideas and the bad ideas in the programs they have chosen to create.

I will start with League City, Texas, whose new ordinance dealing with electronic communications...
Robert Wechsler
(Note: This post has been revised, based on a response from Steve Berlin, executive director of Chicago's ethics board. I had made the silly assumption that the underlined language in the ethics reform ordinance was new. It turns out that much of that language has been there for some time. So I've deleted some comments and made changes to others.)

Recently, the Chicago council passed a series of ethics reforms (attached; see below) in response to the first report of the city'...
Robert Wechsler
I believe that an ethics commission/ethics officer approach to local government ethics is far better than an inspector general approach. The simultaneous creation of an EC/EO approach in Palm Beach County, FL and an IG approach in neighboring Broward County provides a small laboratory for seeing which works better.

Thankfully, Brittany Wallman of the Sun-Sentinel has compared the two approaches in two articles,...