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2014 Founders’ Fellows: State of Public Sector Ethics

Transparency of Government Performance and Professional Ethics in Local Governments
By Changsoo Song, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Transparency in government has been regarded as a viable means to hold government accountable. Recognizing it as a fundamental responsibility of a democratic government, the Obama administration has paid close attention to openness and transparency in government; federal government agencies have been mandated to make their performance information publicly available. These federal efforts to increase transparency have migrated to state and municipal governments. There are, however, variations among local governments in terms of transparency of government performance. According to the 2009 State of Profession survey by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), only about half of the local governments disclose performance information to citizens. Why are some local governments more transparent than others in terms of public disclosure of performance information? Drawing the principal-agent theory, this essay highlights the role of professional ethics in shaping transparency of government performance in local governments.

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The State of Public Sector Ethics in Local City Government 2014
A Case Study: City of McAllen
By Wesley Walsman, University of Texas Pan American

The state of ethics in the public sector in 2014 is a huge topic. This commentary focuses on ethics in local city government. Many local cities have ethics written into their mission statements in the form of value statements. For example, part of the mission statement for the City of McAllen, Texas stresses three core values:  “Integrity: Devoted to truth and honesty; Accountability: Provide courteous, open and responsible public service; and Commitment: Dedicated to responsiveness and excellence. This paper will be a case study of the City of McAllen and how they put ethics into practice from the code of ethics that are part of those of the American Society of  Public Administration (ASPA). This paper focuses on the three common areas of the City of McAllen’s and ASPA’s code of ethics which, when followed, can improve ethical behavior, and cities are being guided by values to improve their decision making. They are employing ethics to 1) advance the public interest, 2) promote democratic participation and 3) promote an ethical organization.

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Building a Millennial Ethic: The New Professional Generation and Morality in Public Administration
By Amy Uden, Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission

A new generation is entering the profession of public administration, and will have increasing impact in the field as Baby Boomer retirements peak. Perhaps unfortunately for the profession, popular media informs us that this generation—my own—is comprised of lazy, narcissistic pseudo-adults, who are largely out of touch with reality. Alongside these less-than-desirable traits, there are compounding concerns: for the best and brightest of the Millennials, private sector positions are reportedly offering more tempting work environments and recruitment processes. Together, this does not inspire confidence for an abundance of ethical, competent new professionals in public service. While there is always risk in taking generalizations about an entire generation at face value, an exploration of the future state of public ethics must consider this group of new professionals.

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