making local government more ethical

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Self-Regulation

Robert Wechsler
Some situations clearly involve a conflict of interest, but are not dealt with in a local government ethics code. Two issues arise. One is the quality of the local government ethics code. The other is whether the code matters at all, if the conflict is clear.

Such a situation exists with respect to a council member in Bellevue, WA, a Seattle suburb, with the extra twist that the city's ethics code applies to employees, and the state ethics code applies to council members.
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Robert Wechsler
It's not an unfamiliar story. Council candidates promise ethics reform. They are elected, and actually fulfill their promises with a proposed ethics ordinance. But there's not really much to the proposed ethics ordinance, and there's no enforcement mechanism.

This is what is happening in Yorba Linda (pop. 71,000), just outside Anaheim. The...
Robert Wechsler
One way of describing government ethics is that it involves the use and abuse of the power that goes with government officials' positions. Not all such abuses are covered by ethics laws, of course. This blog post looks at an instance of abuse that is not covered. It involves a state legislature and, especially, one state representative, in a state where local ethics is handled at the state level.

Much of the background story has appeared in various City Ethics blog posts. A couple...
Robert Wechsler

"I don't think we need to have an ethics officer. ... I feel we already have three ethics officers."

Fernandina Beach Commissioner Jeffrey Bunch, referring, it appears, to the city attorney, the city manager, and the mayor (from the Fernandina Beach (FL) News-Leader)

Robert Wechsler

The Dallas ethics reforms described in a recent blog post were passed on Monday, according to the Dallas Morning News. However, according to...
Robert Wechsler
This week saw the opening of the trial of former New York state senate majority leader Joseph Bruno for honest services fraud. According to the assistant U.S. attorney presenting the case, as quoted in the Albany Times-Union, although a criminal trial, "this case is about conflicts of interest. It's about failure to disclose conflicts of interest, and it's about concealment of information that...

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