EDITORIAL: Ethics bandwagon rolling, needs more speed

2013-08-20T00:05:00Z EDITORIAL: Ethics bandwagon rolling, needs more speed nwitimes.com
August 20, 2013 12:05 am  • 

The Shared Ethics Advisory Commission has three more members — Hobart, Lowell and LaPorte County. It's a sign the government ethics bandwagon is gaining momentum, but it still isn't rolling fast enough.

Other members of the commission are Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Highland, Munster, Schererville and Whiting.

Joining the commission is important, not just as a symbol of the commitment to ethical behavior, but also as a step toward achieving it.

The real value for the local government members — and to residents — is the ethical training this group offers its members.

When the commission surveyed government employees in its member communities last year, it found 67 percent of employees — both trained and untrained — rated ethics training as important or very important.

Training also dramatically boosted awareness of ethics and how to respond in situations where that code of conduct is put to the test.

Unethical behavior is like consuming alcohol or drugs. It begins with one small misstep, then can snowball into a major problem. The key is to educate government employees so they don't make those first mistakes and to report others who do so behavior can be addressed appropriately.

With LaPorte County's membership, the commission now spans Northwest Indiana. There is a noticeable gap in Porter County, however. Portage, Valparaiso and Porter County, in particular, should decide to join. The fees are low enough that there's no real barrier to joining except the lack of commitment.

Lake County government officials have previously decided to join, but that got held up when attorneys working on behalf of the county quibbled with the wording of the commission's Code of Shared Ethics and Values.

Lake County officials should reaffirm their commitment to join and direct their attorneys to wait until after the county has already joined — including seating a member of the commission and, of course, paying the requisite fees — before attempting to tinker with the wording.

Elected officials often speak of their commitment to ethics in government. Now it's time to put their money where their mouths are.

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