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Her Honor

Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, looks at ethical dilemmas, scandals, and best practices in government.

The following postings have been filtered by tag public contracting. clear filter
  •  Ethics Code Overlooked In Contracts For City Projects

    Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013

    Although the Augusta, Georgia ethics code says it is illegal, at least one commissioner has confirmed his company has been a subcontractor on a city project.

    “The amount of money is not that much (that) we make for profit,” says Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle. His tile company did work at the airport--$70,000 worth of work -- in direct violation of the city’s code of ethics. “The bidding process started before I came on board,” he explained. “I didn’t hide anything from the media or any one of my colleagues. I abstained on every issue.”

    The code states clearly “It shall be unethical for any Augusta-Richmond County Employee or public official to transact in an business or participate directly or indirectly in a procurement contract.”

    Commissioner Alvin Mason responded by saying, “There shouldn’t be a single commissioner up here benefiting directly or indirectly dealing with government dollars.” There may be others who are also working for the city, according to the report by the television station WRDW. The commissioners are responsible for deciding how to deal with the violations.

    Discussion questions:

    • Is it enough to recuse yourself from a vote when your company is benefiting from a public contract?
    • What action do you think the commissioners should take?
  •  Ethical Decisions Mean Accepting Responsibility, Not Placing Blame

    Tuesday, Mar. 22, 2011


    Public contracting problems can range from multi-million dollar public works projects to small-scale sidewalk repairs. But in some cases, the contracts are for consulting and services, and these are no less important than the “bricks and mortar” decisions.
    A case in point involves  Desert Hot Springs, California. Rather than following the city charter requirement for competitive bids, the city accepted the word of Tony Clarke, who claimed success in promoting concerts.
    Without the standard vetting of qualifications, and without offering the job to other promoters, the city signed a $250,000 contract for promotion of a Wellness and World Music Festival. In fact, the council voted to also pay $15,000 to the same man to conduct a “feasibility report” on the project.
    Other promoters showed interest, but were not invited to submit proposals. When it became evident the contractor was unable to fulfill his promises, the city decided to conduct an “abbreviated open solicitation” for proposals, giving interested parties 10 days rather than the standard two months to respond.
    When the mayor, council, and city manager were asked how such a basic requirement for competitive bids could be overlooked, there were plenty who assigned blame, but no one who took responsibility. Ethical government calls for honesty and transparency. That means admitting mistakes, and taking corrective measures to restore public confidence. It also calls for changes in process and policy to avoid similar schemes in the future.


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