making local government more ethical

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Robert Wechsler
In my previous blog post, the issue arose of voiding a planning and zoning commission's approval of a permit because one of the commission members had a conflict of interest. Connecticut law automatically invalidates the commission action, without any individual or body having to act. But this is unusual. In fact, most jurisdictions do not expressly provide for the avoidance of permits,...
Robert Wechsler
The Grants of a Conflicted Board of Insiders
Sometimes conflicts can cause a city or county serious problems with such things as state and federal grants. This is what has happened in Brockton, MA (pop. 94,000), according to an article in the Enterprise-News.

The board of the city's...
Robert Wechsler
Some lawyers abuse or misrepresent the lawyer-client privilege and client confidentiality to protect their own unethical conduct. But no one does it better than elected government officials who also happen to be lawyers, and have the ability to draft ethics laws.

A report by the New York City Bar Association, Reforming New York State's Financial Disclosure...
Robert Wechsler
An interesting disagreement has arisen over what is required for a contract with a council member to constitute a conflict of interest in California. According to an article in the Valley Chronicle, the city of Hemet and the League of California Cities disagree with a grand jury about whether a particular council member has a conflict. The council member is the executive director, and...
Robert Wechsler

Update: November 11, 2009 (see below)

Is there any worse way to skirt government ethics rules and misuse public money and position than via a charitable organization? And yet it happens again and again. This time it happened in Baltimore, according to the results of an extensive investigation by the Baltimore Sun.

Robert Wechsler
Again, a very public federal conflict of interest matter provides valuable material relevant to local government ethics. This time it's former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr.'s relationship with the firm he formerly headed, Goldman Sachs, the subject of a front-page story in Sunday's New York Times.

Experts in Government
Whenever experts in the business...