Reprinted with permission from the August 2007 issue of Public Management (PM) magazine
published by ICMA, the premier local government leadership and management organization,
located in Washington, D.C.
Q. In the last city council election, one political party swept into office. A first order of business
for the newly elected city council was to adopt a stricter development policy. Although the city
council was unanimous in supporting the new policy, the policy is unpopular with the public so
the elected officials want to take a low profile. The council has asked the city manager to help
sell the new policy by writing opinion pieces for the local newspaper and seeking speaking
opportunities at community meetings. Are there any ethical issues the city manager should
consider in taking on this role?
A. The ICMA Code of Ethics has a guideline for Tenet 7 on political activity that allows the city
manager to take on this advocacy role: Presentation of Issues. Members may assist the
governing body in presenting issues involved in referenda such as bond issues, annexations,
and similar matters.
The manager's role in communicating with the public also is a key principle in Tenet 9: Keep
the community informed on local government affairs; encourage communication between the
citizens and all local government officers; emphasize friendly and courteous service to the
public; and seek to improve the quality and image of public service.