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Former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and others offered valuable insight Friday at the annual Ethics in Government breakfast meeting: If you don't report corruption, you're an enabler.

A corollary would be that if you don't promote ethical behavior, you're an enabler of unethical behavior.

Fitzgerald was a high-profile district attorney, prosecuting cases that involved terrorism, national corruption and, in the case of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, public corruption.

The Ryan case should be of particular concern in Northwest Indiana. As secretary of state, Ryan didn't stop a culture of bribery. Getting a truck driver's license was as easy as paying a bribe.

That practice came to light after a part fell off a semitrailer truck in 1994, landing on a van and killing six children in the ensuing fire.

"When you actually have people dying because of corrupt acts, that should be a wake-up call," Fitzgerald said.

Northwest Indiana has had many wake-up calls. Times reporter Bill Dolan rattled off a list of around 60 individuals, most of them public officials, convicted on public corruption charges since Dolan began writing about Lake County.

The list is, unfortunately, not complete yet.

"People sit around and know about crime but do nothing to stop it, but expect law enforcement to do something about it," Fitzgerald said.

Whether it's a murder or public corruption or another crime, report it to the proper authorities. Don't be an enabler.

Likewise, more communities should see the value of training in ethical behavior. The Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, which sponsored Friday's session, gave a sneak peek at preliminary results of polling in its member communities. Trained employees are much more likely be be aware of the ethics code, of the process for reporting ethics violations, and to believe reporting a violation would result in fair and appropriate action.

Fighting government corruption requires the cooperation of government employees and members of the public willing to report suspected crimes to the appropriate authorities. Instilling ethical behavior also requires training in what's right and what's wrong.

That's all the more reason to join the Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, which provides the training government employees and public officials need.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.