making local government more ethical

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Local Government Attorneys

Robert Wechsler
What can a local official do when he is required to withdraw from a matter that involves a close personal friend who's in hot water due to that official's feud with another official? What do you do when you're caught between a rock and a hard place? The district attorney of Putnam County, NY is faced with this odd and difficult mix of personal and public obligations, at least if what he is saying is true.

According to...
Robert Wechsler
An investigative article in Sunday's Albany Times-Union looks at the local government ethics programs in 78 local governments in four New York counties. What it found is sadly typical in most states.

What it found was that at least 30 of the governments had not updated their ethics laws since the early 1970s, when government ethics was in its infancy. Almost...
Robert Wechsler
"It was like dandelions. You just accept them. They were there, something you've seen all your life."

Dandelions are a perfect metaphor for institutional corruption. In this case, the dandelions were extra payments (beyond those due to retirees) made by Detroit's two pension funds, to active employees (54%), retirees (14%), and the city itself (32%), the latter to lower annual contributions to the funds, according to...
Robert Wechsler
It's sad that it took the Appellate Division of New York state's Supreme Court (not the top court in the state) to disqualify a town attorney from a case when that attorney's firm had represented the opposing party in a matter substantially related to the case.

Government ethics tends to focus on one side of conflict of interest situation. That is, an ethics program...
Robert Wechsler
I did a huge amount of reading this summer for a paper I wrote for the journal Public Integrity (and otherwise). The first piece of reading I'm going to talk about is one of the otherwise.

Washington University in St. Louis law professor Kathleen Clark's law review article, "Confidentiality Norms and Government Lawyers," 85 Wash. U. L. Rev. (2008), is on a topic I researched many years ago and...
Robert Wechsler
When it comes to conflicts of interest, is a local government attorney primarily an attorney or a local government official? I would answer this question, "Definitely an official." But recently the New Jersey Supreme Court answered this question, "Definitely an attorney." In fact, had the attorney been an administrator, the opinion suggests, the court's decision would have been different.

The opinion focuses on the standard for determining whether the decision of a local government...