At the Center
Capturing the lively discussions, presentations, and other events that make up the daily activities of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.
The following postings have been filtered by category Government Ethics
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Monday, Apr. 22, 2013 4:52 PM
Former member of the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives Mickey Edwards spoke Friday on the influence of partisan politics on the US government. Edwards, author of The Parties Versus the People, described how party loyalty is interfering with problem solving. (Hear the talk)
Edward's appearance was sponsored by the Center's Public Sector Roundtable and the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Commonwealth Club.
Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 11:29 AM
Arguing that only the highest quality is "good enough for government work," Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler questioned whether a report that borrowed heavily from Wikipedia met the minimum standards for a contract issued by Orange County, Calif., to Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman. Brandman, who was to produce a report on whether the county clerk should open a new office in western Orange County, got the assignment under no-bid contract granted by his mentor, former Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly.
Nadler told the Voice of OC:
The county has to figure this out. They have to justify putting out the contract awarding the contract in the first place, and they have to come up with a justification for selecting this person in the first place. What does a $24,000 contract look like, and what are the qualifications for the people who get these? Because if it doesn't require a lot more than this, I think there are a lot of people who are going to be asking for contracts.
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 1:00 PM
As someone who has served on a school board, city council, board of supervisors, and in the state assembly and senate, Joe Simitian has the experience to comment on how various levels of government can work together more effectively.
At a recent meeting of the Center's Public Sector Forum, Simitian offered some guiding principles for local officials working with the state legislature. He argued that empathy is an important characteristic for politicians as it allows them to imagine the constraints and difficulties of another official's position.
Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 3:30 PM
Last month, six former councilmembers from Bell, California, went on trial for misappropriating public funds, as part of a corruption scandal that made the Latino suburb of 38,000 people the poster child for outsize government pay checks, waste, and fraud.
Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler was one of four experts addressing the topic, "Beyond Bell: An Ethical Journey," part of the League of California City Managers annual meeting in January. The presentation allowed panelists to reflect on the importance of strengthening and reclaiming good, open and transparent government. Participants also gave advice on identifying red flags of an unhealthy environment. Also on the panel were presider Arne Croce, former interim city manager of Bell; Jan Perkins, International City Manager Association Senior Advisor; and JoAnne Speers, executive director of the Institute for Local Government.
Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 1:48 PM
The Arizona Republic recently ran a series of articles on discretionary funds, "pools of money, often taken from a city’s general fund, that [are] set aside for an individual council member to use at his or her discretion. It’s a common practice among city councils around the country." These funds are not closely monitored, and they may go for items that individual members might want but the full council might not approve.
The Republic analyzed expenditures from discretionary funds and raised the question, In tough economic times, when cities are cutting basic services, does it still make sense to allow this discretionary spending? Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler responded,
We’ve reduced police forces. We’ve reduced the hours at the library. So we cannot afford to waste one dime on expenses that are not legitimate and that do not advance the work elected officials are charged to do on behalf of the public.”
Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 3:13 PM
The Santa Clara County Finance Agency has determined that Board President George Shirakawa Jr. has been imprudent in his use of public funds. According to the San Jose Mercury News:
Since taking office in 2009, Shirakawa used his county credit card for 174 meals at local restaurants, later reporting he had lost most of the required itemized receipts. He also billed taxpayers for out-of-state casinos, golf fees and rental car upgrades -- in some cases reimbursing the costs months later, only after being questioned.
Shirakawa also allowed his staff to use county monies to make donation to his favorite charitable causes. In an interview with the Mercury News, Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson commented:
It's clearly improper for public officials to use public monies for charitable causes.... The channeling of public monies by a single public official outside the appropriation process becomes a backdoor way of funding the charities that either are the favorite of a public official, or are useful to the public official in their election efforts.
Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 10:24 AM
All of the Ethics Center's materials on government ethics have now been sorted into a new system of categories that makes it easier for visitors to our Web site to find articles, videos, and podcasts on these areas:
General Topics in Government Ethics: Unavoidable ethical dilemmas, codes of ethics, and leadership
Campaigns and Elections: Campaign finance, contribution irregularities, hit pieces, and attack ads
Conflicts of Interest and Undue Influence: Lobbying, favoritism, financial and other interests
Gifts and Bribes: Quid pro quo arrangements and political perks
Transparency: Open meetings, sunshine laws, the Brown Act
Professional Ethics for Public Officials: Civility, councilmanic interference, and the personal lives of public officials
Budgeting as a Reflection of Values: Weighing public goods, pension reform, auditing, redevelopment
Zoning: Marijuana dispensaries, religious institutions, big box retailers
Government and Media: Relations with reporters, social media, leaking, whistleblowing
Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 11:51 AM
In the wake of the recent contentious election, it's time for both sides to search for common ground. So Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics, will argue at a program Dec. 13, 7:30 - 8:30 a.m., at the San Jose Airport Garden Hotel, sponsored by Catholic Professionals.
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 9:03 AM
The public can have an impact on the truthfuness of political disourse, according to Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler.
In an op-ed in today's San Francisco Chronicle, Nadler writes,
Our civic responsibility extends beyond the election, and we need to start at the local level.
Voters need to study the ballot, and consult with nonpartisan organizations like the League of Women Voters that research the issues, making recommendations without political bias. Over time, we can pick better local candidates, because term limits means council members often end up as senators and members of Congress.
We can press them to back up their statements, explain how they can accomplish what they have promised, and speak of their own record rather than tearing down an opponent's.
Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 3:14 PM
Ann Ravel, chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, discussed the effect of the Supreme Court's Citizens United case on the 2012 elections, especially at the state and local level, at a recent presentation to the Ethics Center's Public Sector Roundtable.
Ravel stressed the importance of transparency in the process. Disclosure, she argued, allows voters to understand where the money comes from so that they can assess the validity of campaign claims. "We have to have enough disclosure so people know what they need to know about the candidates," she said.