Ethics Tenet 9:

Keep the community informed on local government affairs; encourage communication between the citizens and all local governmental officers; emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public; and seek to improve the quality and image of public service.

Case Study

During its most recent strategic planning session, the City Council prioritized improving communication with and outreach to the public.  Staff was directed to enhance public relations to inform the public about the good things going on within the city. As the end of the fiscal year drew near, staff engaged in a public relations campaign to inform the public about the upcoming fiscal year’s budget and the public budget hearings.  There were five important points about the proposed budget:  the millage rate was reduced for the fourth consecutive year; reserves were increased; the level of service was maintained; more police officers were included; funding for economic development priorities was included. An informational piece with this information, along with current year accomplishments and notice about both public budget hearings was developed by staff to be mailed to the entire city.  Upon receipt of an advance copy, two council members criticized the piece as being “over the top” and “self-promoting.”  Upon further discussion with the City Manager, their suggestions for changes to the piece were made and they indicated that they had no further issues with staff proceeding with the mailing.

Prior to the first public hearing, a local reporter contacted staff for a story about the piece, indicating that the council members the reporter spoke to did not support staff’s efforts and were unhappy with this piece.  Subsequently, the article was written quoting the council members who were unhappy about the mailer and its content.  At the public hearing, the council members chastised staff for producing “propaganda” and publicly discounted staff’s efforts to provide information to the public.