California has a complex set of ethics laws to guide local
officials in their service to their communities. How does the
well-intentioned local official keep track of them all? Keeping
four core principles in mind helps:
Public officials may not use their offices for personal
Holding public office does not entitle one to personal
advantages or perks.
Transparency promotes public trust and confidence.
Merit-based decision-making based on fair processes produces
the best results for the public
Because public trust and confidence is vital to the strength of a
democratic system, ethics laws sometimes set very high standards
for public official conduct. Even though public officials may
feel at times that some of these high standards of conduct are
unduly burdensome or intrusive of their private lives, they must
accept that adhering to these standards, including broad
financial disclosure rules for gifts and income, is simply part
of the process of public service.
The resources below will help local officials and staff navigate
these laws and provide tips on how they can increase trust and
transparency in their communities.
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