Candidates for public office in Northwest Indiana this year are being asked to sign an ethics action pledge. It's one of two important symbols of their commitment to ethical behavior they should sign. The other is to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission.
The commission, which is holding its annual breakfast meeting today in Hobart, aims to get all units of local government in Northwest Indiana to join the commission in putting a strong emphasis on ethics training.
The commission's membership includes several Lake County municipalities and LaPorte County government. That leaves plenty of room for growth, especially in Porter County.
Discussion of ethics invariably brings up discussion of indictments announced by the U.S. attorney's office and FBI raids like the ones Friday and Monday at the Porter County Government Center.
But it shouldn't come to that. Training in ethics, which the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission offers, provides good guidance for employees and elected officials. The commission's training uses real world examples for effective instruction.
The commission's pledge for candidates reads, "If elected to the office I seek, I commit myself to being an advocate for ethical practices within my realm of responsibility. Specifically, I commit to making formal ethics training available to all employees subject to my authority. Further, I will promote and support policies and procedures that include an ethics code reflecting the spirit of the Code of Shared Ethics and Values of the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission."
The pledge adds, "In addition, I will advocate for and support adoption of enforcement procedures which permit employees to raise ethical concerns in a manner that protects them from retribution."
The commission is right to push for a culture of ethics in the region.
Northwest Indiana is often characterized as having dirty politics because of the number of prosecutions of government employees and elected officials in the region. Changing that perception begins with setting clear expectations for ethical behavior and working to instill it in all government employees.
Candidates, sign the pledge — and keep this promise if elected.