Santa Clara University

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Where Ethics Engages the World in Government

Government ethics edged out the economy as the top issue Americans identified as "very important" in a September 2009 poll by Rassmussen Reports. The Ethics Center is committed to working with government officials and helping them to avoid the common ethical pitfalls of holding public office. Our ongoing programs in this area can be accessed at left.

Conflicts of Interest
Conflicts of interest are a perennial issue for government. This year, the Center focused on new aspects of these conflicts, helping officials to recognize when their affiliations might have undue influence on their decisions.
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When Doing Good May Be Doing Wrong

This set of ethics scenarios, introduced at the Public Sector Roundtable, explores conflicts that may arise when someone is simultaneously holding local office and serving a key role in a non-profit that has business before the city. The cases were developed with support from LifeScan, a Johnson & Johnson company.

Serving Two Masters
In cooperation with a councilmember and city attorney from Hemet, Calif., Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler presented a workshop at the annual conference of the League of California Cities on potential conflicts between the different roles public servants may play in local vs. regional government.


Beyond Codes and Disclosure Forms

Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson made this presentation to the 2009 National Speakers Conference, offering insights on conflicts of interest and other ethical issues for 35 speakers of state legislatures.


The Impact of Social Networking on Government
Among the latest issues to confront government officials is the role that social media will play in public life. If a councilmember sets up a Facebook group and invites his colleagues to join, are they violating their city's sunshine laws? Should a mayor be texting with a lobbyist during a council meeting?

Web 2.0: Possibilities and Challenges for Local Government 
Through our regular check-ins with the members of our Public Sector Roundtable, we learned that problems with social media were bubbling to the surface in many localities. The group's most recent meeting focused on the issues, with participation from the city of Seattle, which developed one of the first municipal social media policies.