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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. clear filter
  •  Inidiana Fair Stage Collapse

    Monday, Aug. 22, 2011 4:44 PM

    The Associated Press talked to Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' decision to bring in an outside firm to investigate the collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fair, which resulted in the death of five people.

    "'There's this sort of automatic default to say, we have people here internally who can take a look at this ... but for something so closely affiliated with the state, it would be wise to call upon someone who doesn't have any even perceived conflict of interest,'" said Nadler, a former mayor of Santa Clara, Calif.
    "'I think it really is such a significant event ... it requires a level of independence to fully discern the facts and to fully convey to the public that this was a fair and thorough and impartial and nonpolitical look at what happened,' she said."

  •  Regulators and Regulated: Too Cozy?

    Monday, Aug. 15, 2011 2:47 PM

    In a story picked up by USA Today, the Indianapolis Star reports on Indiana's top utility regulator's possibly over-friendly relationship with Duke Energy.

    Reporter John Russell consulted with Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler, who commented:


    "It's really inappropriate for a regulator to get involved in personnel decisions with a utility," said Judy Nadler, a senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California, and the former mayor of Santa Clara, who frequently dealt with regulators concerning the city's electric utility, Silicon Valley Power.

    She said regulators should always keep a professional distance from utilities, and any conversation about personnel decisions could raise concerns of favoritism and back-scratching. For example, a utility that receives a note from a regulator pushing a candidate for a job might feel pressured to go along for fear of antagonizing the regulator. On the other hand, a utility that goes along with such a recommendation might expect to get favors in return.


  •  Musical Chairs

    Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 3:34 PM

    When people move from jobs as regulators to jobs in the regulated industry and vice versa, the relationship between the regulated and the regulator can become too cozy.  An article in today's San Francisco Examiner reports, "Consumer advocates and a Peninsula lawmaker have raised questions about whether a revolving door exists between California Public Utilities Commission and the company it is supposed to regulate."

    Reporter Katie Worth discussed the issue with Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler, who commented:

    “The perception to the public is that insiders are making all the decisions and they’re all looking out for one another because they’re all interconnected,” she said.

  •  Gifts to Public Officials

    Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011 10:04 AM

    The corrupting influence of gifts, even small ones such as tickets to sporting events, is the subject of a recent article in the Delaware News Journal. 

    Reporter Maureen Milford spoke to Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler, who explained some of the dangers when public officials accept favors from those who do business with the government.

    "If you, as someone who has business before a lawmaker, have five hours of one-on-one time, it's inevitable that you are going to discuss politics. A lot of people say that's the way the system runs, but it is so inherently unfair. That's why the phrase 'pay-to- play' was coined." 

    "Indeed, studies have shown gifts do influence people, Nadler said. Physicians say they wouldn't be influenced by a free pen given by a representative from a drug company. But studies have shown doctors are more likely to write prescriptions for that company's products, Nadler said."
  •  Nepotism in Government

    Monday, Aug. 1, 2011 3:09 PM

    In the city of Brockton, California, which is in the middle of a controversy over inaccurate water bills, "more than one-third of the city’s 23 water-sewer maintenance men are related to either city councilors or other Department of Public Works employees.

    That is one of several incidences of seeming nepotism uncovered by the The Enterprise, the local newspaper.  Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler commented for the article:

    “If you have this type of appearance of nepotism, or actual nepotism, then what you are saying to qualified candidates is, ‘Don’t bother to apply unless you know someone, or unless you’re related.’”

  •  Political Junket or Just Part of the Job

    Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2011 11:32 AM

    Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will pay a $20,000 fine for accepting travel expenses on behalf of his wife for trips the two took to the Netherlands and Turkey.  Markowitz was working.  His wife is not a city employee. 

    Comment on the issue at Her Honor, the blog of Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Center.

  •  Mixing Politics and Policy in Campaigns

    Monday, Jul. 18, 2011 3:28 PM

    Should a government employee simultaneously be allowed to work on a political campaign?  That's the issue Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler takes on in her blog, Her Honor. 

    Nadler commented on the issue for Chron.Com, the online site of the Houston Chronicle. 

  •  Nepotism in Wilkes Barre

    Monday, Jul. 11, 2011 4:34 PM

    "Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton hired his son and 13 other residents of his three-street Barney Farms neighborhood to summer positions in 2009," according an article in The Citizens' Voice this week.

    Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler commented on the issue for the Voice and The Times Tribune, explaining that it is not best practice for government officials to hire relatives or disproportionately select employees from one area of the city.
  •  What's Okay in a Campaign Blog

    Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2011 11:20 AM

    Social media have changed the way political campaigns are conducted in the US, not always for the better.  In this fictionalized case study a candidate for city council who has declined the services of a local campaign consultant finds herself the target of attacks in his blog.  Then her own supporters strike back.  Written by Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler, the case asks how to refocus the campaign on important issues.

  •  New Quandaries for Public Officials

    Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011 3:07 PM

    The uses of social media by government officials and some new permutations of conflicts of interest topped the list of new ethical dilemmas facing public officials created at the March meeting of the Public Sector Roundtable.

    The Roundtable was instrumental in creating Unavoidable Ethical Dilemmas for Newly Elected Officials in 2004.  On the seventh anniversary of the group's founding, members talked aout challenges that have arisen since that original list was written. 

    The Roundtable brings together, mayors, councilmembers, city managers, members of ethics commissions, and other public officials to discuss emerging issues in government ethics.  The group's next meeting, May 6, will look at "Budgeting in Time of Fiscal Crisis."