Archive for the ‘Ethics’ category

Making Crime Pay As A Prison Consultant

April 19, 2012

Just about anything that one has experience at can be turned into a consulting business. I never heard of a prison consultant until I read a New York Times article titled Making Crime Pay

If you are heading to prison for the first time and are looking for advice on how to survive such an ordeal, you can actually hire a prison consultant to assist you. With names like Jail Time Consulting, Executive Prison Consultants and the Prison Coach, you have quite a few options. There is even a National Registry of Prison Consultants.

Well entrepreneurs certainly know how to recognize customer needs and provide a product to fill such needs. With public corruption cases existing every where, there is probably a consultant targeting the politician prison market.

If you have come across other interesting consulting fields or services, please share them.

And The Most Corrupt Government Award Goes To…?

February 17, 2012

According to a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Chicago is the most corrupt city in the nation and New York State is the most corrupt state.

Since 1976, 2,522 people have been convicted of federal public corruption charges in New York State (70 per year). Since 1976 the Chicago metro area has had 1,531 federal public corruption convictions.

For complete list of states and cities making the top 10 list for federal convictions check out the study, which recommends adopting the following reforms to address corruption in Chicago.

1. Amend the City’s Ethics Ordinance to cover aldermen and their staff;
2. Give the Inspector General access to all city documents including those held
secret by the Corporation Counsel;
3. Ban all gifts to all elected officials and public employees except those from
family members;
4. Bar all lobbying of other governmental bodies by elected officials and city
employees;
5. Prohibit double dipping, patronage and nepotism with real penalties including
firing; and
6. Improve the city’s ethics training and bring it up to at least the State of Illinois
level.

Does Running A Village/Town With Three People Make Sense?

January 30, 2012

In the Buffalo, New York area a public fed up with the cost of government has over the past several years voted to reduce the size of the Erie County Legislature from 17 members to 11, and the Buffalo City Council has gone from 13 members to 9. Kevin Gaughan a citizen activist has led the charge to reduce the number of elected officials serving at the town and village level.

As a result of  recent referendum votes several towns and villages have reduced the size of their governing boards from 5 members to 3. Going to 3 members due to the New York State Open Meetings Law poses some logistical challenges for elected officials. Under the Open Meetings Law, whenever a majority of elected officials meet to discuss public business it has to be in a public meeting that the public has been made aware of so that they can attend if interested. On a 3 member Board a majority is two, which means according to Robert Freeman Executive Director of the State Committee on Open Government:

“Even if the only subject to be considered could validly be discussed during an executive session, a board would nonetheless be required to give notice and convene its meeting open to the public,” Freeman said. “Now [under a three-member board] board members can’t talk to each other about town business. They can’t meet for a cup of coffee, they can’t even email one another.”

In the Town of West Seneca, which downsized from 5 members to 3, in order to communicate and adhere to the Open Meetings Law, West Seneca board members direct questions to the town attorney, who contacts board members to get their input, then he lets everyone know what the others are thinking.

According to Gaughan, “The disease that afflicts government is lack of transparency, closed door deals help erode confidence in government.” Hamburg Supervisor Steven J. Walters believes the ability to call up a councilman to get input is invaluable. Orchard Park Councilwoman Nan Ackerman, whose seat is being eliminated in the downsizing, believes the critical mass necessary for effective brainstorming will be lost. “It’s so much easier to come up with ideas when you’re talking together, if you think about it all by yourself, you’re like a rat on a treadmill. Nothing new is coming to you because you’re not hearing any new ideas.”

Kevin Gaughan who led the downsizing movement in Western New York believes the area will benefit from smaller boards. Decisions will move from the back room to the board room, where citizens can see how their government operates. “We actually strengthen enforcement of the Open Meetings Law”.

Gaughan additionally  notes that the Buffalo area has lost: 272,000 people since 1976, 30 percent of young people between 18 and 34, and the ability to fund the ever-increasing cost of government. “I’m hopeful that everyone is going to take this opportunity to rethink how we can govern ourselves more efficiently,” he said.

In addition to the limitations on communications among Board members, some are concerned that the power of running a town or village is being determined by the majority vote of two people.

Do you agree that elected officials being unable to discuss government business in private is a problem or should all discussions take place at a public meeting? Is two people constituting a majority vote for running a local government a concern for you?

Six Ways To Build Public Trust In Government

December 27, 2011

On a regular basis polling shows the American public has very little trust/faith in the ability of government. G. Edward DeSeve has a great post on Governing.com expressing his thoughts on six factors that are important for the public to regain trust in government. Excerpts from his post are below:

Honesty: Ethical behavior is often taken for granted until there is a breach. Promoting honesty must go beyond mere ethics training. It has to be built into a culture that won’t tolerate even small lies or a little bit of cheating. Schools of public policy and management should make the study of what constitutes ethical behavior mandatory.

Efficiency: This is making sure that government delivers “value for money.” Producing high-quality public goods and services should be done as inexpensively as possible. All the techniques of private industry should be utilized, and measurement of efficiency should be rigorous and comparative.

Transparency: If you are trying to gain people’s trust, they have to be able to see what is going on for themselves. Perception is often reality, so showing the public what is really happening can inspire more-positive perception. New developments in technology—including geospatial mapping and rapid feedback communications—enable government to operate both efficiently and transparently at the same time.

Accountability: This is simply telling people what you are going to do and then giving them an accounting of how you did. Performance management should stretch from “the shop floor to the top floor” and should allow managers at every level to demonstrate how well they are doing their jobs. Pride in doing a good job and performance management should go hand in hand.

Good policy choices: These start with good policy-development processes that translate public needs and conditions in the external environment into a coherent set of actionable strategies. Reasonable people will differ on what constitutes good policy, but the electorate knows it when they see it. Again, bringing transparency to policy development and even including the public in developing policies will lead to greater trust.

Positive outcomes: Implementation of policy choices honestly, efficiently, transparently and accountably should produce positive outcomes. If it doesn’t, managers should rapidly evaluate why the expected outcomes weren’t achieved and take corrective action. Program evaluation has fallen out of favor, perhaps because it was seen as something done tomanagers, not by them. As with creating an accountability framework, evaluation of outcomes should be in the hands of managers themselves, aided by technical experts if needed.

What do you think about these six ways to build public trust in government? What items would you add or delete to this list?