Thursday, June 5, 2008

What other Local Governments are Doing to foster Public Trust

Ethics, Public Service and the Public's Trust:
A Multi-Lateral Statement of Principles

Washington County and City Boards of Ethics
and Elections Commissions

It is our belief that most people who choose to work for local governments share an attitude of mind, a way of looking at their work as public servants. We believe they want to serve the public in a transparent manner that earns trust and respect, and that they wish to abide by all relevant laws and codes of ethics.
The ethics codes in effect across the state at county and city levels of government are similar to one another in that they reflect similar principles, values, and experiences. They are meant to offer guidance, assistance and support – especially in situations that may appear ambiguous to public employees.
The purpose of this document is to outline in clear language the common elements shared by these codes of ethics. We believe they reflect attitudes and a shared spirit among public employees that favor fair and honest decisions and actions. We also believe an understanding of the commonalities will foster common bonds among public employees, enhance the public’s trust in local government, and facilitate principled, ethical approaches and practices in our local governments.
Just and Equitable Treatment
Public servants are expected to treat all citizens similarly, without giving preferential treatment to anyone or treating anyone unfairly. Further, they are expected to refrain from using their positions to obtain any favors for friends, relatives, business associates or themselves.
Use of Government Property
Government employees must avoid using government property or resources for political purposes or personal gain.
Avoiding Conflicts of Interest
A conflict of interest occurs when a person has personal or financial interests in any matter in which he or she has professional responsibilities. Such interests could influence, or appear to influence, professional judgments and official decision making.
A common cause for concern and uncertainty is the extent of influence or appearance of influence caused by gifts to government employees. Government employees must generally avoid accepting gifts and pay for their own meals.

Post-employment Restrictions
Public servants have restrictions placed on them about the work they perform or participate in once they leave their government jobs.
Transparency and Disclosure
In order that the public may be assured that government employees are not making decisions or taking actions in a manner designed to benefit themselves, many public servants are required to sign a declaration of their financial interests on an annual basis. Further, they are asked to make all their decisions in a transparent manner that can be examined by the public.
Complaints, Hearings, and Appeals Processes
Many codes of ethics include processes allowing for complaints from citizens or other government employees, and they often include procedures for hearing the complaints and appealing any judgments.
Ethics Consultation
At each government level, personnel offer consultation to anyone who would like help. In all cases, they want to assist employees to make ethical decisions, and thereby enable members of the public to have confidence in those employees.
This overview describes common principles that the local governments indicated
below utilize in applying their respective ethics codes. For details, please consult
the relevant county and city codes and regulations.
Executed by
Lois Price Spratlen, Chair
King County Board of Ethics
Bruce E. Heller, Chair
Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission
Al French, City Council Member
City of Spokane


What are we doing locally?
Whatcom County Ethics Code Chapter 2.104 adopted in 1998:

City of Bellingham -- no ethics information available:

On November 19, 2007: The City discussed an ethics ordinance, but sent it back to staff to be "fleshed out"-


During Committee, the Council directed staff to “flesh out” the proposed ordinance WATTS / GISCHER moved to direct staff to come up with a proposal that would first, apply to the elected officials and the people who are not subject to collective bargaining and secondly to review the three options for enforcement and come prepared to explain how they would be implemented, and what the associated costs would be. MOTION CARRIED 7-0.

City of Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission - adopted in 1991: It's interesting to take a look at the code other cities have adopted.$.head.&s2=&s3=&s4=&Sect4=AND&l=90&Sect1=IMAGE&Sect3=PLUROFF&Sect6=HITOFF&Sect5=CODE1&d=CODE&p=1&u=%2F%7Epublic%2Fcode1.htm&r=1&f=G

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