making local government more ethical

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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...
Robert Wechsler
Several interesting issues arise from a recent ethics case in Jefferson Parish, a suburb of New Orleans with about 430,000 people. According to an article in the Advocate yesterday, an employee of a large parish contractor sent the following e-mail to a council member's aide, who forwarded it to the council member:
“I would like to schedule a meeting with Councilman Spears...
Robert Wechsler
Some people incorrectly believe that a conflict of interest requires an official not to vote in such a way as to benefit himself. That is, if the official might benefit from a vote, it's okay for him to vote against it, because that shows that the official is not seeking to benefit himself.

What is odd is to see this position taken by an ethics commission. This is what happened in...
Robert Wechsler
Does a council member who is a realtor have a conflict with respect to any council matter that affects real estate, including a matter that affects property values ? That appears to be the view of NJ Superior Court Judge Grasso in a decision this week, according to an article in Thursday's Asbury Park Press.

The particular matter involved...
Robert Wechsler
Applicant Disclosure Is Good for Officials
If Ontario or Mississauga required broad applicant disclosure, Mississauga's mayor would not be in court this week arguing that she didn't know that her son had invested in a huge hotel and convention center deal. According to an article yesterday on the 680 News Radio site, she has been alleged...
Robert Wechsler
Appearances are very important in government ethics. A situation that has arisen with respect to a proposed state audit of the Palm Beach County ethics commission has created serious appearance problems.

According to an April 2 article in the Palm Beach Post, state senator Joseph Abruzzo requested an audit of the Palm...