Ethics Tenet 12

Case Studies 1 and 2 (adapted from The Ethics Edge Case Study 2 by Elizabeth Kellar, ICMA):

Seek no favor, believe that personal aggrandizement or profit secured by confidential information or by misuse of public time is dishonest.


Gifts. Members should not directly or indirectly solicit any gift or accept or receive any gift – whether it be money, services, loan, travel, entertainment, hospitality, promise, or any other form – under the following circumstances: (1) it could be reasonably inferred or expected that the gift was intended to influence them in the performance of their official duties; or (2) the gift was intended to serve as a reward for any official action on their part. It is important that the prohibition of unsolicited gifts be limited to circumstances related to improper influence. In de minimus situations such as tobacco and meal checks for example, some modest maximum dollar value should be determined by the member as a guideline. The guideline is not intended to isolate members from normal social practices where gifts among friends, associates, and relatives are appropriate for certain occasions.

Investments in Conflict with Official Duties. Members should not invest or hold any investment, directly or indirectly, in any financial business, commercial, or other private transaction that creates a conflict with official duties.
In the case of real estate, the potential use of confidential information and knowledge to further a member’s personal interest requires special consideration. This guideline recognizes that members’ official actions and decisions can be influenced if there is a conflict with personal investments. Purchases and sales which might be interpreted as speculation for quick profit ought to be avoided (see the guideline on “Confidential Information”).

Because personal investments may prejudice or may appear to influence official actions and decisions, members may, in concert with their governing body, provide for disclosure of such investments prior to accepting their position as municipal administrator or prior to any official action by the governing body that may affect such investments.

Personal Relationships. Members should disclose any personal relationship to the governing body in any instance where there could be the appearance of a conflict of interest. For example, if the manager’s spouse works for a developer doing business with the local government, that fact should be disclosed.

Confidential Information. Members should not disclose to others, or use to further their personal interest, confidential information acquired by them in the course of their official duties.

Private Employment. Members should not engage in, solicit, negotiate for, or promise to accept private employment nor should they render services for private interests or conduct a private business when such employment, service, or business creates a conflict with or impairs the proper discharge of their official duties. Teaching, lecturing, writing, or consulting are typical activities that may not involve conflict of interest or impair the proper discharge of their official duties. Prior notification of the appointing authority is appropriate in all cases of outside employment.

Representation. Members should not represent any outside interest before any agency, whether public or private, except with the authorization of or at the direction of the appointing authority they serve.

Endorsements. Members should not endorse commercial products or services by agreeing to use their photography, endorsement, or quotation in paid or other commercial advertisements, whether or not for compensation. Members may, however, agree to endorse the following, provided they do not receive any compensation: (1) books or other publications; (2) professional development or educational services provided by nonprofit membership organizations or recognized educational institutions; (3) products and/or services in which the local government has a direct economic interest. Members’ observations, opinions, and analyses of commercial products used or tested by their municipalities are appropriate and useful to the profession when included as part of professional articles and reports.

Case Study 1 – Investments in Conflict with Official Duties

The City Manager sees a growing need in the town he has managed for the last fifteen years for living facilities geared to the aging population in town.  While there are a couple of similar but smaller facilities in his town; the manager while traveling, has seen a number of highly successful independent and assisted-living developments that allow seniors to maintain an active lifestyle in a congregate setting that also meet seniors needs. (Including medical and dining services readily available as well as home and lawn work provided.)  At the same time, the manager is about five years from retirement and wants to remain in the community, so he is beginning to look down the road for retirement income and a second career.  The manager contacts a partnership that has developed similar projects in other communities and suggests becoming a minority partner to develop a facility in the city he is managing. The manager is considering a number of factors before making a decision to move forward with this development venture:

1. The City Attorney has advised him there is no legal conflict as long as he fully discloses the venture to the city council.

2. After discussion the Mayor is highly encouraging of the idea because he agrees there is a strong need for this kind of development in the community.

3. While the location of the contemplated project is not currently zoned for this kind of use the Planning and Zoning board would likely readily approve a rezoning.

4. Because this idea is so unique to the community it would certainly be successful but would likely draw business from the other smaller assisted-living projects in the community.

5. The manager would be making a personal contribution to the overall quality of life in the city which would comply with all city building standards and laws.
The city does not own or support and assisted living facilities.

Case Study 2 –Gifts

The recently hired, first-time city manager, of a “university town,” and his wife are invited by the president of the university to join him in the president’s suite at the upcoming football game as a way to introduce the manager to the university.  The university president indicates that they will also be joined by the mayor, the president of the chamber of commerce, the CEO of the regional power company and several other community leaders who are football fans and supporters of the university.   Even though the city manager is not a huge football fan he feels that it is important that he establish a positive relationship with the president and community leaders.  The city manager checks the city charter and state law and does not find any guidance as to any restrictions that would prohibit him from accepting the invitation.  The university and the city have enjoyed a great relationship over the years and there are no pending projects between the city and the university. The manager is considering a number of factors regarding a decision to accept the invitation to attend the football game:

1.The manager wants to get to know the university president better (as well as the other community leaders) and make a good first impression.

2. The “first” city manager’s position salary does not afford the manager with much disposable income to afford tickets to the football game.

3. The manager is concerned that not accepting the invitation could damage the positive “town and gown” relationship that exists.

4. The mayor stops by to see the manager to let him know how much he is looking forward to introducing him to the college football weekend experience.

5. The manager’s wife really wants to attend a big time college football game and sit in the president’s skybox.