HOBART | Talk of ethics in local government brought out a crowd of a couple hundred Thursday morning to a public policy breakfast at Avalon Manor.
It also prompted at least two candidates for public office to become the first to sign pledges they would support ethics training for their employees if elected.
Former U.S. Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, the keynote speaker at this year's Ethics in Government breakfast, told the gathering ethics shouldn't be an afterthought.
"Representative democracy depends on the confidence of the people, confidence their officials are working for them and not for personal enrichment," Hamilton said.
Calvin Bellamy, president of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, made his latest pitch for county and municipal government to become dues-paying members of the commission's efforts to promote ethics training for all government employees.
Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Gary, Highland, Hobart, Lowell, Munster, Schererville, Whiting and LaPorte County have signed on, but other have communities and counties haven't acted.
Bellamy said the commission has mailed its 2014 Candidate Ethics Action Pledge to candidates for county office in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties and municipal seats in Kouts, Dyer, Lowell, Schererville and St. John.
The commission also spread pledge forms at every breakfast table and got back signed ones from Jamal Washington, a candidate for Lake County Council 3rd District, and Lake County Clerk Mike Brown, who is running for re-election.
Ron Matlock, who is opposing Washington in the May 6 Democratic primary, and Josefina Magallanes, who is opposing Brown, couldn't be reached Thursday for comment on whether they intend to sign a pledge.
Hamilton, an Indiana congressman from 1965 to 1999 and vice chairman of President George W. Bush's 9/11 Commission, LaPorte County Commissioner Vidya Kora, Indiana University Northwest School of Business Dean Anna Rominger and Times columnist Rich James addressed ethics on a national and local level.
Their discussions brought out a wide range of community leaders from U.S. Attorney David Capp, whose office has convicted scores of corrupt public officials, to George Van Til, former county surveyor and one of the most recent to plead guilty to a public corruption charge. Van Til is awaiting sentencing.
Hamilton thanked public officials and candidates in the crowd.
"It's hard to put your name on a ballot since someone might vote against you. I hope you find what you do to be rewarding and you feel a sense of pride," he said.
He told them ethics means "we are keeping our eye on you."
"A recent survey showed the No. 1 quality Hoosiers value and look for in an officeholder is integrity," he said.