When the Dyer Town Council votes on a 17 percent increase in police pension benefits, how will Councilman Joe Cinko vote? Or will he vote at all?
Those are both good questions because Cinko serves on the Dyer police force as well as the Dyer Town Council.
Council President Jeff Dekker said he doesn't want Cinko to vote because he has a conflict of interest.
Cinko wouldn't benefit immediately from the pension benefit increase, but he would in the future unless the ordinance is rescinded or revised in the future.
"(Dekker) seems to be basing the decision on feelings of conflict of interest," Cinko said. "It's not a legal one."
Cinko said the town's attorney advised him he would be within his legal rights if he votes on the ordinance.
Apparently, Cinko has overlooked the distinction between what's legal and what's right.
It's a clear conflict of interest for a town police officer, in his capacity as a town councilman, to vote on a police pension issue.
Dyer is one of the newest members of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, along with East Chicago. The commission's code of conduct says members pledge "to not participate in any decision where I have a conflict of interest or from which my family, business and professional associates or I may personally benefit."
The commission doesn't enforce its ethics code; member communities do so. But it does offer training that helps head off situations where violations might occur.
The ethical conundrum Cinko now faces is not unique to Dyer. That's why a new state anti-nepotism, anti-double-dipping law is phasing out the practice of government employees serving on the governing board of that same unit of government.
The Northwest Indiana Committee for Better Government pushed hard for this important reform.
The public's interest, not that of employees, must be served.
Cinko must decide whether to vote on something that would benefit his police department associates, and likely himself in the future. He should do what's right, not just what's legal.