Ethics & Transparency


Ethics and Transparency

In California, state and federal laws create a complex set of requirements that guide elected officials and agency staff in their service to their communities. ILG offers a variety of resources to help local officials and staff comply these laws and understand the unique legal and ethical obligations of being a public servant.  


Promoting Personal and Organizational Ethics

Ethics is what one ought to do–the kind of behaviors that would make the world a better place, especially if everyone engaged in them. The key question is: how does the conscientious public servant sort through competing considerations and determine “the right thing to do?” When it comes serving the public, how does one put one’s values into practice?

To determine what one ought to do, go to the root of the matter and think in terms of values. Research by the Institute for Global Ethics identifies ethical values that transcend virtually all cultures and religions. 

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”–Warren Buffett


Understanding Public Service Ethics Laws

In California, state and federal laws create a complex set of requirements laws that guide elected officials and agency staff in their service to their communities.

As extensive and complex as these laws are, it is important to remember ethics laws only constitute minimum standards for officials’ conduct. The law is a floor for public official conduct, not a ceiling: just because a particular course of action is legal does not mean it is ethical.Download the full publication here.


Ethics Education
AB 1234 Training

The Institute offers a number of resources to help local officials and their staffs comply with California’s requirement that local officials periodically refresh their knowledge of public service ethics laws and principles.

In addition, California law (sometimes referred to as “AB 1234″) requires local officials to periodically receive training on public service ethics laws and principles.

The purpose of this training is to alert local officials to the extensive array of laws that apply to public service, as well as the unique ethical obligations public servants have.


Transparency Strategies

Transparency is a key element of public trust and confidence. A commitment to transparency demonstrates to the community that an agency and its officials have nothing to hide. 

There are a variety of ways to show this commitment:

  • Conscientious observance of transparency laws
  • Concerted efforts to share information with the public about local agency operations and decision-making process
  • Commitment to engaging the public.

Everyday Ethics Columns
Analyzing Public Service Dilemmas

Every two months, until the close of 2014, the Institute’s ethics program analyzed different ethical dilemmas public officials are likely to face.

Some of the dilemmas have legal dimensions, some have ethical dimensions and many are a combination of both. The column appeared in Western City magazine, the monthly publication of one of the Institute’s parent organizations, the League of California Cities.

Everyday Ethics Article Archive


Ethics Tools
Mechanisms for Promoting Public Service Ethics

What options are available to local officials who are interested in promoting public service ethics within their agency? Realistically, there is no silver bullet for achieving a culture of ethics within an agency. It takes hard work, strong leadership and a sustained effort. 

Are there other tools out there that have worked for your agency? Please feel encouraged to share your experiences by posting a comment on what has worked and what hasn’t for your agency.

“No great achievement is possible without persistent work”–Bertrand Russel