As we suggested in an article a few days ago, BayBuzz considers high standards of ethical conduct to be the minimum “price of entry” for those wishing to serve as Councillors on our various public bodies.
Sometimes those on the inside have a different view than we the electors do about what constitutes inappropriate, unethical behavior. Over time, they can begin to feel like the government and its resources are theirs.
Consequently, they might not think twice about, for example, using council staff to assist in their personal job search. No single incident in itself might be that significant. But if they accumulate without reprimand — and public accountability — they can create a climate where “playing loose” becomes the norm, and a serious violation of the public trust becomes inevitable.
Should a Councillor benefit personally from a public contract?
Should Councillors use council staff or resources for personal purposes?
Should Councillors appoint personal cronies to official positions instead of finding qualified candidates?
If a violation of the official Code of Conduct occurs or is alleged, should Councillors privately police themselves?
BayBuzz offers this “Public Ethics IQ Test” to help everyone — officeholders, candidates, and electors alike — calibrate their expectations. Perhaps those running for office in the upcoming council elections will share their “Ethics IQ” with their electors during the campaign.
Ethics IQ Test — Score 1 each time you agree
- Councillors should disclose publicly the financial interests and property holdings of themselves and their immediate family, including trusts, so that electors can assess the impartiality of their actions as Councillor.
- Councillors should not vote or participate in matters in which they have a financial interest over and above an interest in common with the public.
- Councillors or businesses in which they or members of their immediate family have an interest should not be awarded public contracts.
- Councillors should not use council resources (staff, facilities, privileged information) under any circumstances to pursue personal business or gain.
- Councillors should make appointments to various local boards, committees and other public entities strictly on the basis of merit, as opposed to personal or business relationships.
- Councillors should not seek employment or business relationships, or promises thereof, in any manner that might be construed as trading on their influence as public officials.
- Councillors should disclose the source of all campaign contributions over $500 in value, whether in the form of cash or services.
- Councillors should bring any instance of official malfeasance of which they become aware to the attention of their fellow Councillors.
- Councillors have an ethical responsibility to their electorate to participate fully and regularly, and in an informed manner, in the official proceedings and decision-making of their council.
- Councillors should affirm that maintaining
public trust in elected officials and their decisions is of paramount
importance, and therefore commit to go beyond the “letter of the law”
and avoid even the appearance of improper or unethical conduct.
Is anything less than a “Perfect 10” Ethics IQ score acceptable? Shouldn’t we hear an explanation from any Councillor or candidate for that position who disputes any of these principles?