There's a difference between what's ethical and what's legal. What former Lake County Clerk Tom Philpot did — stealing child support money — was illegal. But it was unethical as well.
Philpot's Feb. 21 conviction should make local government officials throughout Northwest Indiana think harder about ensuring public officials, employees and appointees behave in an ethical manner.
During his trial, and in news stories since the controversy began, Philpot said he believed taking the money was legal, that his attorney had advised him on the law regarding that money.
Had Lake County required all public officials to participate in ethics training, Philpot might have seen that regardless of the legality of the situation, it was clearly unethical to take the money.
The Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, which provides this kind of training, has expanded to seven communities. Members now include Crown Point, Dyer, East Chicago, Highland, Munster, Schererville and Whiting.
Lake County enacted the required interlocal agreement but didn't pass the Code of Shared Ethics and Values or fulfill any of the other membership requirements. The county should promptly follow through on this failure and join the agency.
It's easy to say people are either ethical or they're not, but any human resources professional worth his or her salt could attest to the value of periodic training that deals with scenarios the employees and others associated with that unit of local government might face.
In the wake of Philpot's conviction, local governments should be more eager than ever to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.
That is especially true of county government, where Philpot served so long, but even the smallest communities should join. Ethics training is vital.