GUEST COMMENTARY: Thousands involved in improving ethics in government

2013-11-12T00:00:00Z 2013-11-12T18:28:14Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Thousands involved in improving ethics in governmentBy Cal Bellamy nwitimes.com
November 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Does anyone in local government care -- really care -- about ethics? That’s a fair question, and the answer might surprise you. I am pleased to report more than 2,500 people are involved in promoting ethics in local government right here in Northwest Indiana.

Let’s start with the 13 local citizens who are members of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission. Each community that has joined the commission selects a private citizen as its representative and then those community representatives select three more at-large members.

The commission has developed four ethics training courses of differing lengths. This course material is used by volunteer local government employees whom the Commission trains. Thirty-one public employees have volunteered to be ethics trainers.

In addition to the ethics commissioners and volunteer trainers, over the past two years nearly 300 citizens who serve on local community boards and commissions have given up an additional evening to receive training on how to deal with ethical challenges they might face in making decisions on zoning, economic development and other issues within their communities.

Each of our member communities has committed to providing ethics training for all of their full-time employees at least once every two years. This is an ongoing and continuous effort which will never be finished, but, thanks to the efforts of volunteer trainers, the 2,000-plus employees working for our member communities are being trained on the basics of ethical decision-making. Our trainers use case studies and group discussions to make the training of practical use to employees at all levels.

So there you have it: 13 commission members, 31 trainers, 300 board and commission members and more than 2,000 employees in our 10 member communities, all introduced to the concept of ethical decision-making.

We fully realize what we are doing is not a panacea. There is no cure-all and no magic bullet, but we firmly believe (and we have statistical data based on surveys of member employees to support this belief) that our training is helping public employees be more aware of ethical issues and challenges.

We further believe persistence and continuous efforts will produce increasingly positive results.

So far, 10 public entities have joined the Commission -- Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Highland, Hobart, Lowell, Munster, Schererville, Whiting and LaPorte County.

Membership is open to every community in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. If you reside in one of our 10 member communities, please thank your leaders for their commitment to ethics. If your community is not a member, I urge you to contact your public officials and encourage them to learn more about the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.

Our ultimate goal is to achieve a culture of ethics throughout Northwest Indiana.

Cal Bellamy is president of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission and a partner at the Krieg DeVault law firm. The opinions are the writer's.

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