making local government more ethical

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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
No one wants a political government ethics program, and yet the people who most often worry out loud that it will be political want it to be political. This apparent paradox can be explained by looking at the various meanings of the word "political." Which of these meanings is most important to a government ethics program, and which of them are, well, "just politics"? And what can a government ethics program do to lessen politics?

1. A government ethics program can be political in...
Robert Wechsler
Between the American Thanksgiving holiday and throwing out my back so that I couldn't sit at my computer, I missed one of the most fascinating stories of the year:  a judicial dismissal of Toronto's mayor for a conflict of interest violation. The conflict situation was minor, but the way the mayor handled it and the way Toronto's ethics...
Robert Wechsler
Ethics program independence is, as far as I'm concerned, the single most important issue in ethics reform. Nothing gains the public's trust as much as an ethics program that is independent from the officials over whom it has jurisdiction.

It is clear from the second report of the Chicago Ethics Reform Task Force (attached; see below) that the task force members cared about making the Chicago's ethics program more independent. But the task force stopped short of community...
Robert Wechsler
A presidential election day is a good time to consider how vague, character-based ethics rules can be misused.

According to an article in the October 27 Economist, the Iranian constitution, for example, requires a presidential candidate to have the attributes of "trustworthiness and piety." Iraq's requires that a presidential candidate have "a...
Robert Wechsler
Independent agencies, especially those with lots of money to spend and contracts to enter into, require not just ethics policies, but a comprehensive, independent ethics program. This rarely acknowledged fact has been made clear once again by an external audit of an agency that proved completely unable to self-regulate its officials' and employees' conflicts of interest. The agency is the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which...