SCHERERVILLE | For ethical, efficient government to exist in a democracy, all parts of the government — from elected officials to appointed commissions and board — must represent all the people, all the time, and trust between government and residents is a bridge that must be built.
Those were the messages Monday at a training session for boards and commissions sponsored by the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.
More than 200 people from the commission’s seven member communities attended the session at at Teibel’s Restaurant. The training was presented by David Limardi, Midwest director of the International City/County Management Association and former city manager of Highland Park, Ill.
Those communities include Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Highland, Munster, Schererville and Whiting. Commission membership is open to all communities in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.
“Trust is the one thing that must exist between those who lead and represent and those who are represented,” Limardi said. “Even if you are only on a commission or board, you are leaders in government. You must work to build public trust.”
Mistrust of government and unethical behavior came to a head with Watergate in 1972 and has become epidemic at every level of government, Limardi said.
Those serving on boards and commissions must make informed decisions, he said.
“In this country, decision making is not ‘ready, aim, fire’. It’s ‘ready, fire, aim.'
"Support the decisions (of the board or commission) and work for success even if you aren’t in the majority," Limardi said. "To live in a democratic society, majority rules.”
Problems facing government leaders today aren’t technical problems but adaptive problems, Limardi said.
“Leave your organization in better shape than you found it,” he told the training participants. “Seek no favor, ever. But trust through treating all equitably and with respect.”
That’s not easy in today’s uncivil society, Limardi said.
He presented six steps to consider in making ethical decisions. They include the law and knowing if something is legal and meets the spirit of the law.
“Some people stop here. That’s where coloring outside the lines comes in,” Limardi said.
Other steps include knowing the rule, integrity, appearances, clear thinking and perspective.
After the presentation, each table was given one of six ethical case studies to discuss and form an opinion on how the situation should be handled.
This was the first step in training for boards and commissions, said Cal Bellamy, president of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.
“Board and commission members fill too important a role in their communities not to be trained in ethics. There are a lot of gray areas,” Bellamy said.