making local government more ethical

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Political Activity/Patronage

Robert Wechsler
The Boss of the Ethics Director's Bosses
According to an article this week in the Free Times, an FOI lawsuit was filed against South Carolina's ethics commission, because its director had said that a letter informing the governor of an ethics violation had not been sent and had been destroyed, when in fact it was sent and did exist.

Not only...
Robert Wechsler
Update October 7, 2013 (see below)

On Independence Day weekend, I like to focus on the independence of local government ethics programs. The public naturally trusts any ethics program that has not been selected by the officials under its jurisdiction. An EC that is not dependent on the appointment and budgetary powers of a mayor or local legislative body can function, and be seen to function, fairly and without bias.

Savannah is a city of 140,000 people, certainly...
Robert Wechsler
There's a lot of food for thought in the February 21 decision of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in the case Lodge No. 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Philadelphia.

The suit was brought in order to end the prohibition on police officers making campaign contributions to local candidates directly or through a party or PAC, including the...
Robert Wechsler
The last Congress is known for doing very little, but a couple of weeks ago it actually passed a bill that will have a serious effect on local government ethics: the Hatch Act Modernization Act of 2012 According to a press release on the bill, it "removes the federal prohibition on most state and local government employees who...
Robert Wechsler
Here's an interesting political activity situation out of La Crosse County, Wisconsin. According to an article in the La Crosse Tribune last week, the county administrator was involved in supporting a referendum to give the city of La Crosse its own administrator. A city or county manager is not supposed to be involved...
Robert Wechsler
Here's the situation. There is a state ethics program that applies to local governments, and an ethics issue relating to a local law arises. There is no local ethics commission to enforce the local law, so what happens?

This is the situation in Cincinnati. The issue involves a charter provision that prohibits city funds from being disbursed for the purpose of a political campaign. This is usually an ethics matter (misuse of city property), but since there is no ethics commission in...