Frank Benest, senior advisor to the International City/County Management Association, addressed the recent meeting of the Center's Public Sector Roundtable, a group of locally elected officials and members of city staffs. According to Benest, the ethical expectations for public officials flow from the form of government under which the city operates.
In the city council-city manager form of government, ethical issues can arise between the elected councilmembers and the professional staff, which report to the city manager. Benest led the group through three scenarios illustrating some of the problems and drawing on the expertise of the group of develop responses.
Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler met with Michael Dukakis' class on "Bureaucracy and Public Management" at UCLA for a discussion of "Politician as Outsider: Judy Nadler and the Santa Clara City Council," a case written about her work as a councilperson. Dukakis, the former governor of Massachusetts, designed the course to look at leadership, especially “public management in the tough, day-to-day world of politics and intensive public scrutiny.”
Responding to a reporter for the New York Times investigating health care district spending in California, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler commented, “The outrage factor is we have public agencies that are collecting money that is not being used for the purposes for which the agencies were originally established.... The question is, how are they helping the public right now by having that money in the bank?
For example, the tax-supported Peninsula Health Care District was holding a $43million reserve while uninsured citizens of the district were waiting as much as a year to see a doctor. The Los Medanos Community Healthcare District spent just half of its revenue, with the balance--more than $400,000-- going to "administrative and operating expenses, including stipends for the board of directors, travel and election fees and a board retreat."
Conflicts of interest can arise when people holding public office also represent clients whose interests may be affected by government decisions. In a New York Times article on the subject, Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler commented, “You’re fooling yourself if you think you can wear those two hats and not have it influence the outcome.”
Mike must decide whether to provide a job reference for an old fraternity buddy whose Facebook page reveals some activities that his prospective employer, the same city government for which Mike works, might find problematic.
When an employee of the City Planning Department recommends specific contractors from a city-approved list, is he doing something unethical? What if he receives payments or favors from these contractors? Those issues are at the heart of "Friendly Advice or Quid Pro Quo," a fictionalized case study written by Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler.
Ethics is not just about following rules; it's about core values, said Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics, addressing a recent conference in Dallas, sponsored by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility in collaboration with the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business.
Further, she argued, "it's not just about knowing your core values but also about having the courage to actuallys stick to those values and speak hard truths."
Nadler was one of four participants in a panel on "Ethical Leadership and Values."
Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Center, argued that "the law is the floor, not the ceiling" when it comes to ethical behavior in a talk she gave Nov. 2 at the conference "Ethics, Trust &Transparency.
The conference was sponsored by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at Southern Methodist University’s Dallas campus.