making local government more ethical

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Self-Regulation

Robert Wechsler
According to an article in the Tulsa World, last week the city's Ethics Advisory Committee (EAC) ruled in favor of one of its members, Michael Slankard, with respect to an advisory opinion request by the city attorney. This situation raises several interesting issues.

Background Information
First, the background, some of it from...
Robert Wechsler
There's a lot of talk among government ethics practitioners about how important it is for ethics commissions to have teeth, that is, the ability to at least reprimand and fine government officials for ethics violations. Requiring council approval of ethics recommendations brings elected officials into the ethics process and politicizes it. And politicizing an ethics program undermines its goal of gaining the public's trust in elected officials to govern for the public, not for themselves and...
Robert Wechsler
A favorite ploy in local government ethics is for a council to vote for an ethics code that includes an ethics commission, and then either not actually appoint members to the commission or, when they resign, not fill their seats, so that there is, effectively, no enforcement mechanism.

But a legislative body cannot do this when it self-enforces. It has to be more creative. The Tennessee House has just that sort of creativity. According to...
Robert Wechsler
Update below
Recently, I wrote a bit about the odd Venice, FL ethics program, which puts the city manager completely in charge. Now Venice is making news with respect to open government issues, and this has led to a very interesting conflict of interest issue.

According to an article in Friday's Sarasota...
Robert Wechsler
An article deep in the first section of this Sunday's New York Times presents an interesting ethical dilemma. In New York State, it used to be common for state troopers and local police officers to negotiate, effectively plea bargain, at the courthouse with people they'd given tickets to. And then, in 2006, the State Police set a policy banning this practice. The grounds for the practice are...
Robert Wechsler
A city full of casinos has no need for an ethics board, right? Well, according to an article in yesterday's Press of Atlantic City, that's the decision the Atlantic City council made last week.

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