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States and Municipal Ethics

Robert Wechsler
It all started with a private meeting among three members of the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority board, according to an article last week in the Orlando Sentinel. The subject of the informal meeting was the ouster of the executive director, which took place at the next formal meeting.

But after an...
Robert Wechsler
There is nothing more natural and, in most circumstances, ethical than a mother doing her best to help her son when he is in trouble. And yet, in most jurisdictions, there are multiple government ethics laws that prohibit this very conduct when the mother is a government official. This is as good an example as there is of the fact that government ethics is not about ethical conduct in general, but rather about government fiduciaries dealing responsibly with their conflicts of interest.
Robert Wechsler
States can make life difficult for local government ethics programs. For example, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun on Sunday, in Maryland, local governments have to use the same rules for access to ethics disclosures as the state does. And the state's rules are designed to prevent access.

The state requires...
Robert Wechsler
Here's an interesting conflict situation from Louisiana that involves a good intra-governmental revolving door provision and unforeseen circumstances. According to an article today in the Advocate, the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board made the wise decision to ask the state ethics board, which has jurisdiction over local officials, whether it could hire the city's...
Robert Wechsler
Earlier this month, a bill came before the Israeli legislature, the Knesset, called the Machers Bill. Its goal is to expand the Knesset's lobbying law to the executive branch as well as to municipalities, something that is rare in American states.

But what is a "macher"? It's a Yiddish term that, in the U.S., is most frequently used with respect to people in the Jewish community who always have their fingers in everything that's going on. They make (machen) things happen...
Robert Wechsler
"Wheeling" is a term I just discovered. The context is that NJ governor Chris Christie made a campaign promise to deal with "wheeling," and then failed to, according to a South Jersey Times editorial yesterday. Here's how the editorial describes the practice (many NJ local governments prohibit or limit contributions from their contractors):...