A topic that frequently appeared on ACMA Board agendas this past year is how to enhance our commitment to ethics in professional local
government management. Although the focus on ethics has always been a distinguishing feature of our profession, today it's perhaps more
important than ever. A single ethics violation, even unintentional, can have a lasting effect on how our members are perceived across
To give the issue its fair attention, ACMA convened an ethics committee chaired by retired Chandler Assistant City Manager (and incoming
ACMA Senior Advisor) Pat McDermott. The committee did an outstanding job researching ethics programs across country and suggesting ways
our association can place a greater emphasis on ethics.
The committee's work was presented to the ACMA Board earlier this year and led to several notable updates.
First, ACMA will sharpen its focus on ethics in our activities and publications, including the two annual conferences, the bimonthly
newsletter, and our website. It's important to acknowledge that simply discussing ethics issues more openly and frequently naturally
leads to positive results.
Second, the role of the Committee on Professional Conduct (CPC) will be strengthened as a resource. Fortunately, our members have an
excellent track record when it comes to ethics, and it's uncommon that the CPC is called upon to investigate a complaint. However, the
role of the CPC should be brought to the forefront, along with developing a rotation schedule for committee seats to allow more members
the opportunity to serve.
Finally, the ethics committee and board of directors also sought to develop a deeper understanding of ICMA's process for reviewing
reported ethics violations. Through conversations with ICMA's Director of Ethics, Martha Perego, we learned the process is often
different from what some might expect.
When we hear media reports of an alleged ethical violation on the part of a local government employee, we might think a major
announcement is forthcoming from ICMA. That's unlikely to happen, however, for several reasons. The person may not be an ICMA
or ACMA member, or the alleged violation may not have been reported. It's therefore important not to assume that someone else
will make the report; if you see something you think violates the ICMA Code of Ethics, you should report it immediately.
Likewise, ICMA's investigation process is purposely kept out of view to protect the accused in the event the report turns out not
to be a violation. While certain individuals (e.g. the ACMA board president, members of the CPC, etc.) may be apprised of various
aspects of the case, they are usually prohibited from speaking publicly about it. That said, it's important that ACMA take a
stronger, more public stance about our profession's intense focus on ethics, even in the media when the situation warrants it.
Ethics has been a cornerstone of local government management since 1924, and in Arizona since ACMA's founding in 1954. While many of
us display the ICMA Code of Ethics prominently in our offices, we also have an excellent opportunity to practice it through our
involvement in ACMA. Look for a continued focus on ethics as ACMA grows and changes to meet our members' needs.