making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
One government ethics question that does not have a general answer is whether boards of education or school systems are under the jurisdiction of city or county ethics programs. The answer is sometimes, but generally not.

There are several reasons for this. One is that many, probably most school systems have different boundaries than cities and counties. Generally, these are regional, including all or parts of multiple cities, towns, and counties.

The second reason is...
Robert Wechsler
Intimidation is, I believe, the worst kind of ethical misconduct in government, because (1) it limits or changes participation of people in the democratic process, (2) it is emotionally damaging, and (3) it enables all sorts of ethical misconduct. Intimidation is a fundamental form of misuse of power and position. (For more about intimidation, see the section of my book on this topic...
Robert Wechsler
It is important to bring contractors into an ethics program, requiring them to disclose gifts their employees make to officials, and to deal responsibly with possible conflicts they are aware of. Businesses tend to deal with such things internally. Bringing them into an ethics program requires them to recognize that dealing with conflict situations internally is not enough.

The fact is that most ethics programs do not place sufficient requirements on contractors. Often, ethics...
Robert Wechsler
Update: October 10, 2012 (see below)

So far, I have ignored this year's most famous local ethics proceeding, against San Francisco sheriff Ross Mirkarimi. The reason I ignored it is the reason I am writing about it now:  I think the proceeding should have been dismissed because the sheriff's misconduct involved neither a conflict of interest nor his official duties.

The fact that the complaint was brought by the mayor against an opponent on the city's board of...
Robert Wechsler
According to an investigative article on Nashville's WTVF-TV site yesterday evening, a former property assessor had help from a developer in disposing of her home and buying one from the developer, and also undervalued nine of the developer's properties by a total of $9.5 million over three years.

The assessor says that the developer offered the...
Robert Wechsler
One of the wonderful things about local government ethics is that every mayor or county executive feels qualified to act as if he was establishing the first local government ethics program ever. It's sort of like choosing what will go in a bento box, except that there are no rules (e.g., only one sushi roll, or you've got to have miso or the clear soup).

A new bento box is being put together in the infamous Prince George's County, MD. It was only a year and a half ago that...