Read module 2 lecture notes and the section from the textbook entitled: “Public Dynamite” (pages 80 – 85 Lewis and Gilman). Then read the case presented in this assignment and answer the questions posed…
Pursuit of the public interest is one of those elusive feat, a moving target that public servant must always aspire to achieve, it is a never‐ending process.
“The public interest may be presumed to be what … people would choose if they saw clearly, thought rationally, acted disinterestedly and benevolently…” Walter Lippmann (1889‐1974)
“Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place”. Rossiter, 1961: Federalist #51
“Ethical Government means much more than laws. It is a spirit, an imbued code of conduct, and ethos. It is a climate in which… some conduct is instinctively sensed as correct and other conduct as being beyond acceptance”.
Report of the President’s Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform, March 1989
It is arguable that one of the more interesting ethical issue facing public servants is the question of social value (public interest, common good, public weal) vs. personal value and individual choice. For the public servant, the issue of personal ethics is often intertwined with public policies. Although it may be impossible to completely separate individual private interests from that of the public interest, public service judiciously requires some form of demarcation.
PUBLIC SERVANTS AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST
Public servants are responsible and obligated to champion the public interest. Public servants champion the public trust by:
Avoiding conflict of interest
Avoiding the appearance of impropriety
The public servant and the press/media
AVOIDING CONFLICT OF INTEREST
A person’s public position should be used for promoting the public interest and not for personal gain. Public office must not be used for personal interest since this practice is both illegal and unethical.
Often, the public servant is required to disclose his or her financial status before and during his/her time in office. Nepotism or favoritism to relatives relative to one’s public service position must be avoided at all cost.
Influence Peddling (bribery) is prohibited. The public office or position is not for sale.
Boundaries should also be established between a person’s public life and personal life.
Although difficult to achieve, the public servant in his/her public capacity should always seek to avoid bias, ineptitude, preferential treatment, and contempt.
Promotion of the public’s interest demands objectivity/impartiality in the conduct of his/her daily affairs.
Even if the public official believes that s/he is acting in the best interest of the public, it is best to avoid using public position for private advantage or to the advantage of anyone with whom s/he has a private relationship. See Exhibit 3.4 pg. 84
AVOIDING THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY
“There can be no dissent from the principle that all officials must act with unwavering integrity, absolute impartiality, and complete devotion to the public interest. This principle must be followed not only in reality but in appearance” President Kennedy 1961
The actions of the public servant should look, feel, and smell right. Public perception is very important, therefore the public servant must be mindful of how the public feels and pay attention to this issue. Additionally, public servants should always gauge how the public responds to their activities/decisions. Through observations, they can ultimate shun those action/activities with negative public perceptions and reinforce positive public perceptions.
THE PUBLIC SERVANT AND THE PRESS/MEDIA
The public servant should try to maintain a good relationship with the media where possible. The more powerful the position, the more visible the official will be. One rule of thumb to guide their actions is to use common sense, and establish ethical credibility. The public official should not embellish stories and should be willing go on record if it’s an issue s/he is not prohibited from discussing
Public Dynamite – The Case of Joe the Public Works Director
Read the case below then answer the 10 questions that follow below:
Joe has lived in this city of 25,000 residents most of his life, and now he is a civil engineer and the public works director. He’s invited several neighbors and friends, some of whom work with him at City Hall, to his home for cocktails to mark the holiday season. He agrees cordially when a neighbor asks whether she may bring along her dinner guest – a reporter for the local newspaper. Unfortunately, Joe succumbs to too much holiday spirit and drunkenly collapses in the kitchen before the guests depart.
1. Has Joe done anything unethical, or has he just been stupid?
2. Should the reporter print the story?
3. Is Joe’s home a protected reserve?
Changing the circumstances clarifies the mode of reasoning and pinpoints critical factors in making judgments. Closed questions force decision making; open-ended questions encourage analysis. Would your answers to the three preceding questions change if:
4. Joe’s drinking were habitual, perhaps affecting his performance on the job?
5. Joe had made several racist remarks during the party?
6. Joe were chief administrative officer in a city of 300,000?
7. Would your answers to the first two questions change if it had been an office party in a local restaurant?
8. Do the public opinion polls affect your answers? Explain
9. Should public opinion affect a manager’s ethical choices? Explain
10. Do people in public lives have a right to any privacy? Explain
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