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GUEST COMMENTARY: Porter County should join regional ethics group

GUEST COMMENTARY: Porter County should join regional ethics group

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"It's what you learn when you know it all that counts."

- Harry S Truman

I remember Sunday School, and I belong to Immanuel Lutheran Church. My mother dragged my 4-year-old self back to the grocery store with my piggy bank and apology in hand when she found a pack of Juicy Fruit Gum in my pocket. (Sorry, Mr. Costas.)

My children value respect and kindness, and they know a lie brings much bigger consequences than a mistake they admit.

I'm comfortable with my moral compass. But does that mean I have ethics in my job as Porter County Commissioner managed? Does my moral compass cover what is expected of me? Are all officials on the same page?

Ethics, I've learned, are different than morals. They both relate to "right" and "wrong" conduct, absolutely. But while morals are an individual's principles, ethics refer to the set of rules provided to an individual by their profession.

Are these rules based on our moms' teachings? Yes. But while we intrinsically know it's wrong to accept bribes or use public money for private projects, we might not know all of the ethics laws and accompanying forms required to document adhesion to those laws.

What is a Uniform Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statement? Where do we get one? How is it filled out? Where is it filed? What other forms are there?

We don't have answers to those questions readily available to everyone in Porter County. And most mothers and kindergarten teachers didn't cover it.

Our employees and officials need to have easy access to this information, and the public deserves a government that makes every effort to demonstrate ethical behavior.

I believe by joining the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, Porter County can take a giant step in the right direction.

The group's preamble is striking: "Because we value the public's confidence and trust in our services and its decision makers, our character and behaviors must meet the most demanding ethical standards and demonstrate the highest levels of achievement in following this code."

Today more than ever, the public needs to know their local government can be trusted.

The commission is proven, having been in Northwest Indiana since 2005. Its primary goals focus on heightening awareness of ethical issues and fostering ethical behavior through education and training.

Porter County should join this group. When it comes down to it, why wouldn't we? I can't think of a single reason.

Laura Blaney is a Porter County commissioner. The opinions are the writer's.

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