Ethics in local government : cultivating a robust ethical environment




Dory, Mary Christine

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This professional report identifies best practices for building and sustaining an ethical environment within local government. A healthy ethical environment benefits governments and citizens alike by safeguarding the public trust and by protecting resources from loss due to fraud, waste or abuse. Ethics are particularly important -- and apparent -- within local government, due to the direct presence of local services in many citizens' lives. The first half of this report applies leadership and development theory to create an ideal operational framework for an ethical environment at the local government level. Specifically, the report finds that strong organizational values, postconventional reasoning, and adaptive leadership should be incorporated into the basic ethical framework of every local government. The second half of this report addresses the sustainability of ethical environments by analyzing the root cause of recurring ethical risk factors within local government. In particular, the report addresses risk factors involving internal controls, conflicts of interest, the limits of managerial discretion, and data transparency. With respect to each of these vulnerabilities, the report provides a set of policy recommendations tailored to the level of local government. The report concludes that while each local government must ultimately adopt the ethics structure that best suits that particular entity’s needs and resources, the following best practices emerge for building and sustaining an ethical environment within local government: respect for the public trust, strong organizational culture that empowers ethical leadership at all levels, regular risk assessment and risk mitigation activities, appreciation of the power of public perception, and commitment to transparency regarding ethical successes and failures.




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