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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 firefighters. clear filter
  •  Firefighters Create And Adopt Code Of Ethics

    Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012

    Recognizing the behavior of a few can damage the reputation of an entire department, the Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association created a “National Firefighters Code of Ethics.”

    The National Fire Academy (NFA) in Maryland has adopted that document, and  copies are hung in every classroom building. The information is in all NFA student manuals and eventually, will be in all textbooks utilized at colleges and universities where accredited fire-related courses are taught.

    A special Web site,, includes information on the history of the document, and notes that Facebook posts, off-duty behavior, and the problems in the personal lives of firefighters can give the public the impression that “all” individuals in the fire service engage in questionable behavior. This misconception is "eroding the high moral ground" of the fire service, and may tarnish the reputation of a well-respected institution.

  •  What "Wood" You Do?

    Friday, Sep. 9, 2011

    When off-duty firefighters in North Bend, Oregon cut down 25 alder trees in February, Fire Chief Scott Graham said he thought the firefighters could take the wood, and he could help himself to some as well.

    But the Oregon Government Ethics Commission has reprimanded Graham, saying he should have known he could not take them for personal use.

    “Every public official in the state of Oregon is required to adhere to ethics laws,” according to Ron Bersin, executive director of the commission. “One of those laws is that you are not able to financially gain from your position. He was using fire department equipment and city trees and he was going to burn the wood at his home.”

    A retired Coos Bay firefighter blew the whistle when he saw the city firewood stacked against the chief’s house. “He had so much wood you couldn’t see the roof of his house.”

    The sanction, rather than a fine, was recommended because he had not yet burned the wood. A part of the stipulation is that the wood be donated to an agency serving individuals with mental illnesses.

    Chief Graham said the whole episode “basically boiled down to miscommunication.”

    Discussion questions.

    Please post your thoughts in our comment section.

    • Does it matter that the firefighters were off duty when they did the work?

    • There was no mention in the news story on whether or not the firefighters took any wood. If they did, how should their case be treated?

    • How should the chief handle this within the fire department?

    • What role, if any, should the mayor or city manager play in addressing ethics laws?

    • What do you think the best outcome could be in this situation?

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