Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Ethics Articles

Government Ethics

Unavoidable Ethical Dilemmas for Public Officials
Challenges for public officials in the areas of fairness, transparency, conflicts of interest, and integrity.
Hana Callaghan
The Case of the Questionable Campaign Photo
A candidate uses a controversial photo in a campaign brochure.
Hana Callaghan
Social Media and Government Ethics: Issues and Challenges
A video conversation about positive and negative impacts of social media on government
David Vossbrink and Miriam Schulman
Yelling Across the Aisle: Combating the corrosive effects of hyper-partisanship
Public Sector Roundtable discusses pressing issues in government ethics with help from donor Michael E. Fox Sr.
Campaign Ethics: Perspectives from Political Experts
November 15, 2013, meeting of the Public Sector Roundtable
Ethical Issues for Political Candidates
Concerns for voters and pointers for candidates on how to run an ethical campaign from experienced political consultants
Carrie Jaffe-Pickett
Dealing With Disaster: The Ethical Challenges
Pay Czar Kenneth Feinberg discusses the ethics of disaster relief compensation
Kenneth Feinberg
Consulting on the Side: A Case Study
A public agency CEO has a side consulting business that may create a conflict of interest.
Joan Cassman
It May Be Legal, but Is it Ethical? (Video)
A discussion distinguishing law and ethics in public sector decision making.
Joan Cassman and JoAnne Speers
What Government Officials Can Do to Raise the Ethical Issues
Tools for making ethics part of the decision making process in government
Joan Cassman and JoAnne Speers
It May Be Legal, but Is it Ethical?
Meeting of the Government Ethics Roundtable, August 2013
Law and Ethics in Public Service
Joan Cassman, attorney, and JoAnne Speers, executive director of the Institute for Local Government, distinguish between law and ethics
Carrie Jaffe-Pickett
Widespread Government Corruption: When is it Time to Leave Your Job?
A recent college graduate encounters a culture of corruption in her first job in local government.
Amanda Nelson
Unequal Work Distribution: Gender Discrimination in Work Assignments
Interns must decide how to handle a sexist supervisor.
Saayeli Mukherji
The Influence of Partisan Politics on Government
The Public Sector Roundtable hosts former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards
View From Sacramento
Materials from a meeting of the Public Sector Roundtable on how state and local government can work together
Avoiding Ethical Pitfalls in Government Service
Questions that public officials should ask before making a decision
Joe Simitian and Judy Nadler
How the State Legislature Impacts Local Government
How empathy can help state and local legislators work together more effectively
Joe Simitian and Judy Nadler
How the State Legislature Impacts Local Government
California politician Joe Simitian talks about how different levels of state and local government can work together.
Miriam Schulman
The Dhaka Factory Fire: Who Is Responsible?
Is the Bangladeshi government or the factory owner more at fault for a fire that killed 112 people?
Saayeli Mukherji and Noah Rickling
Why do candidates lie?
How citizens can hold candidates to higher standards of honesty
Judy Nadler
Talking Turkey: A Case Study on Government Ethics
When a mayor participates in soliciting donations for a local foodbank, is he giving merchants the impression that they can't say no?
Judy Nadler
Transparency, Trust, and Campaign Finance
FPPC Chair Ann Ravel explores the impact of Citizens United on campaign finance in California
Miriam Schulman
What "Wood" You Do? A Government Ethics Case
The fire chief takes wood from city trees for his personal use.
Judy Nadler
Ethics in High Pressure Campaigns
Podcast of a Commonwealth Club discussion featuring Center Executive Director Kirk O. Hanson
Kirk Hanson
Transparency, Trust, and Campaig Finance: A Talk by Ann Ravel (Podcast)
Chair of California's Fair Political Practices Commission Ann Ravel argues that anonymous campaign contributions keep voters from being able to assess candidate's claims.
Ann Ravel
Ethics in a Post RDA California
Public Sector Roundtable meeting on the end of redevelopment agencies
California Without Redevelopment Monies: The Ethical Issues
Successes and missteps of redevelopment agencies and what their demise will mean
Miriam Schulman
San Jose Moving Ahead Without Redevelopment Money
Richard Keit, managing director of the San Jose Redevelopment Successor Agency, talks with Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, about the end of Redevelopment Agencies. Keit argues that California has lost its single best tool for redevelopment. He describes working with the oversight boards. which are in charge of dissolving the agencies. Keit also discusses how cities must make difficult choices between good projects now that redevelopment monies are exhausted.
Richard Keit
Impact of Redevelopment on Downtown San Jose
Bert Robinson, managing director for content of the Bay Area News Group, talks with Markkula Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler about the role of redevelopment in bringing San Jose "back from the dead." They discuss the fall-out from the dissolution of redevelopment agencies in California and whether the state discontinued the agencies solely to save money.
Bert Robinson
Ethical Challenges in the City Manager/City Councilmember Relationship
Three scenarios depicting typical ethical issues that arise between councilmembers and managers
Frank Benest
Effective Council/Manager Relations
Materials from a meeting of the Pubic Sector Roundtable
city manager, city council
Do's and Don'ts for City Managers and City Councilmembers
Advice for new city officials from an advisor to the International City/County Management Association
Frank Benest
Ten New Rules for Elected Officials in Times of Economic Meltdown
Senior adviser to the International City/County Management Association advises public servants to focus on the core.
Frank Benest
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: Ethical Challenges for Local Government
Cities debate the best way to deal with medical marijuana
Miriam Schulman
Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: Ethical Challenges for Cities
Ethical questions for municipal officials on allowing, siting, and monitoring medical marijuana dispensaries
Social Media Create Ethical Dilemma
Former fraternity brother "Derek" asks "Mike" for a recommendation. Should Mike mention the exploits chronicled on Derek's Facebook page?
Judy Nadler
Toward Stronger Ethics in Government Relations
The senior counselor to the chairman at Hill & Knowlton discusses lobbying.
Tom Hoog
When Is a Contribution a Bribe?
A popular local businesswoman and philanthropist is found guilty of "pay to play" contributions to the mayor's reelection campaign. Should charities still accept her contributions?
Judy Nadler
Leadership in Government Ethics (video)
Senior Fellow in Government Ethics speaks on leadership around values at a national conference at SMU.
Judy Nadler
What's in a Name?
The (fictional) town of Berkshire has named a plaza after its long-time mayor. Now the mayor has been convicted of taking kickbacks. Should the city change the plaza name?
Judy Nadler
Mayor Becomes an Undercover Citizen Journalist
Mayor Mike Winderof West Valley City, Utah, assumed an adopted identity to write the "good news" about his city in the local newspaper.
Judy Nadler
Friendly Advice or Quid pro Quo
An employee of the Planning Department "recommends" particular contractors who offer him kickbacks.
Judy Nadler
Fairness and the California Redistricting Process
Redistricting Commissioner Angelo Ancheta and SCU Professor of Political Science Janet Flammang discuss the evolution of the new California plan.
Miriam Schulman
Brief History of Redistricting in California Since 1970
SCU Professor of Political Science Janet Flammang traces the often contentious process of drawing new district lines.
Janet Flammang
Fairness in Redistricting: Interview With a California Commissioner (video)
Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Nadler discusses the challenges that faced the California Citizens Redistricting Commission with Commissioner Ancheta
Judy Nadler and Angelo Ancheta
Republic Lost (podcast)
An analysis of the corrupting power of money in American politics
Lawrence Lessig
Blog, Tweet, and Post: Proceed With Caution
Social media tools can pose ethical problems for lawmakers
Judy Nadler
Old Guard vs. New Guard
A dynamic new city manager comes into conflict with the previous city manager, now elected to the city council. One policy they disagree about: the need for a city code of ethics and values.
Judy Nadler
Land Use Decisions and Community Values
In this case study, city council must decide whether to allow a restaurant that features "scantily clad" waitresses to occupy a vacant storefront.
Judy Nadler
State Auditor's Report: Waste and Fraud or Checks and Balances?
Audit intended to identify and correct problems.
Judy Nadler
Budgeting in Tough Economic Times
The August 2011 meeting of the Public Sector Roundtable focused on ethics and budgeting for city officials
Budgeting in a Time of Fiscal Crisis
San Jose City Councilmember Sam Liccardo lays out the ethical issues for public officials when they must make difficult budget decisions.
Miriam Schulman
Budgeting Is About Values
John Ellwood, professor of public policy at UC-Berkeley, discusses the difficulty in reaching consensus about values
Miriam Schulman
Handling Council Critics
Does incivility violate a city's code of ethics?
Jason Wu
What's OK in a Campaign Blog
Vitriolic posts from a hostile blogger lead a candidate's supporters to counter-attack.
Judy Nadler
Ethics, Gifts, and Public Officials
A video conversation on gifts to public officials and public agencies.
Roman Porter, Michael Martello, Melinda Hamilton,
New Unavoidable Ethical Dilemmas for Elected Officials
The use of social media and new forms of conflicts of interest top the update of ethical issues facing locally elected public servants.
'Fair' is in the eye of the beholder
The public pension reform debate hinges of different definitions of the concept of fairness.
Judy Nadler
How the Laws of California Are Really Made: Sponsored Legislation

Ethics and Lobbying in Washington and at the State Level
The vice president for government affairs at Applied Materials outlines an agenda for ethical and effective lobbying.
Gary Fazzino
Ethics at Noon: Ethics, Lobbying, and How the Laws of California Are Really Made
Karen de Sa, reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, and Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, discuss the influence of lobbyists on lawmaking in California. Nadler is the former mayor of Santa Clara, Calif. De Sa is the author of a Mercury News series on Sponsored Bills in Sacramento. Participants will include members of the Center's Public Sector Roundtable.
Oil Spill (podcast)
Managing possibly catastrophic risk
Emerging Issues Group
August 6, 2010 Roundtable: Government Pensions
Summary of a Public Sector Roundtable Meeting on Government Pensions
Thinking Ethically About Government Pensions
Various ethical approaches are used to raise pertinent questions about the best way to accomplish public pension reform
Miriam Schulman
Deep Pockets
Materials on how local governments weigh whether or not to defend against litigation
Deep Pockets in the Public Sector
When should a city defend against litigation, and when should it settle? A look at the ethical issues.
Miriam Schulman
Public Sector Roundtable Ethics Hot Spots, May 2010
Challenges facing public officials
Gifts to Lawmakers and Public Employees: Evolving Policies
The director of the California Fair Political Practices Commission and government officials discuss behested payments, transparency, and gift policies
Gifts to Public Officials
Discussion from a meeting of the Public Sector Roundtable
When Official Roles Conflict
A set of case studies on conflicts of interest for local officials
Whom Do I Represent? Local and Regional Public Service
A case study of a councilmember serving on the county transit board
Judy Nadler
Serving the Greater Good: A Conflict Between Local and State Responsibilities
A case study of a councilmember invited to serve on a statewide task force
Judy Nadler
Social Media: Possibilities and Challenges for Local Governments
Ethical issues concerning the uses of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media by government officials
Web 1 and 2: Ethical Issues for Government Officials
A look at access and transparency issues created by the use of social media by public servants
Ethics: Beyond Codes and Disclosure Forms
Presentation to 32 Speakers of State Houses of Representatives at the 2009 National Speakers Conference hosted by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, Sea Island, Georgia. October 22, 2009
Kirk Hanson
Successfully Serving as a City Council Member and a Non-profit Board Member
Three brief cases illustrating conflicts between non-profit and public service
Robin Lowe, Judy Nadler, Eric Vail
Two Views of a Budget
A case study for state officials on resolving a budget crisis
Judy Nadler
Red Light, Green Light for State Legislators
Brief cases highlight ethical dilemmas for state officials
Judy Nadler
When Doing Good May Be Doing Wrong
Four scenarios on potential conflicts between public service and work with non-profits
Judy Nadler
Serving Two Masters: Discussion of the Cases
Responses to cases illustrating conflicts of interest
Emerging Ethical Issues for Local Government Officials

Serving Two Masters: Government and Non-Profit Service
LeeAnn Pelham, executive director of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, looks at potential conflicts of interest.
Ethics and the Assessor
PowerPoint presentation for the California Assessors Association 106th Annual Conference on doing the publics business with transparency and integrity
Kirk O. Hanson
Do We Have an Obligation to Vote?
An analysis of whether it is possible to make a rational case for the individual's responsibility to vote.
Scott LaBarge, introduced by Judy Nadler
Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy
Transparency, land use and planning, and civic engagement top the list of information needs for citizens to participate effectively in decision making.
Judy Nadler
Meeting the Public's Information Needs
Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics joins other community leaders in a discussion of the information needs of communities in a democracy.
Dealing Ethically With the Press: A Guide for Public Officials
Four rules of thumb for government officials in working with the media.
from a workshop with Jerry Ceppos
On Ethics and Immigration
Arizona Governor looks at ethical issues in developing policy on illegal immigration.
Janet Napolitano
Putting Away the Gifts
The Center's senior fellow in government ethics recommends a no-gifts policy for public officials.
Judy Nadler
Sunshine reform
Testimony to the San Jose City Council on improving government transparency.
Judy Nadler
Setting the Stage for Problems
Should a public official solicit charitable contributions from businesses that are under his supervision?
Roey Rahmil
Election Irregularities
A newly elected mayor decides whether to contest a citation for election code violations.
Roey Rahmil
On the Record
What is a former supervisor's duty to reveal about past poor judgments by a candidate for public office.
Roey Rahmil
Ethics and City Hall
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed outlines reforms.
Suruchi Bhutani
San Jose Sunshine Reform Task Force Update
The task force considers recommendations for improving transparency and participation.
Whistle Blowing in the Public Sector
An introduction to the ethical issues surrounding government whistle blowers.
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
Ethics of Leaking
How to tell whether a leak is worth publishing--or taking seriously
Kirk O. Hanson and Jerry Ceppos
Future of Government Ethics: There's Hope
Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler extends the work of the Center into the classroom.
Miriam Schulman
Codes of Ethics and Values
Access to a wide variety of resources on how cities can develop ethical codes
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
Personal Lives of Public Officials
Ethical issues at the boundary between a politician's personal and public behavior
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
An introduction to the ethical issues for public officials.
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
Civil Disagreement
A case exploring the limits of public debate
Judy Nadler
Name Calling on the Council
When the mayor and a councilmember disagree vociferously, is it unacceptable conduct or just the normal rough and tumble of politics?
Judy Nadler
Gifts and Bribes
An introduction to the ethical issues for public officials.
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
No Such Thing as a Free Ticket
A case involving a gift to a government official
Judy Nadler
Political Perk or Part of the Job?
A mayor must decide whether to accept VIP treatment at the ballpark.
Judy Nadler
Ethics and Leadership Camp for Public Officials 2006
Twenty-two city councilmembers, ethics commissioners, and other government officials gathered for the first summer workshop on instilling a culture of ethics in local government.
Judy Nadler
Councilmember and the Manager
A city councilmember must decide if he can impartially review the performance of the city manager.
Judy Nadler
Relationships Between Elected Officials and Staff
An introduction to the ethical issues that arise between city or county staff and councilmembers or supervisors.
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
Favoritism, Cronyism, and Nepotism
An introduction to the ethical issues presented by favoritism in government.
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
Introduction to Government Ethics
Basic material on the most common ethical issues in public service
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
Conflicts of Interest in Government
An introduction to the ethical dilemmas posed by conflicts of interest in the public sphere.
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
Campaign Ethics
An introduction to campaign ethics including ethical dilemmas, cases, and links
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
Evolution of Human Rights Norms and Machinery
Bertrand G. Ramcharan, former United Nations High Commissioner, offers his perspectives on the evolution of human rights norms and machinery.
Bertrand G. Ramcharan
The Case of the Friendly Consultant
A mayor wonders whether a friendly lunch is actually an occasion for lobbying.
Judy Nadler
Lobbying Ethics
An introduction to the ethical considerations in lobbying the government
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
Open Meetings: A Case Study
An executive session makes citizens question a city council's decision on rezoning.
Judy Nadler
Open Meetings, Sunshine Laws, and Transparency in Government
An introduction to the topic including definitions, dilemmas, cases, and links.
Judy Nadler and Miriam Schulman
The Candidate's Crisis of Conscience
A candidate for city council must decide how frank to be in endorsement interviews.
Judy Nadler
What Would a Real Ethics Refresher Course Look Like?
Advice for the Congress and White House about ethical leadership.
Judy Nadler
On-Line Resources in Government Ethics
Links to articles, codes, and other materials about government ethics programs.
Campaign Ethics and Voter Guidelines
Materials on campaign ethics prepared in conjunction with the city of Livermore, Calif.
Judy Nadler
Campaign Ethics Challenge
A candidate faces a last-minute attack from an opponent.
Judy Nadler
The Case of the Extra Mile
Ethics case addressing the work-life balance for public employees.
Kirk O. Hanson
The Case of the Mangled Data
Ethics case addressing the responsibility of public employees to provide accurate information.
Kirk O. Hanson
Creating a Culture of Ethics in the Public Sector
Remarks on government ethics presented at the World Bank
Judy Nadler
Government Ethics Cases for City Finance Directors
Scenarios ask city finance directors to give a red or green light.
Judy Nadler
Nadler Named Woman of the Year
Center Senior Fellow in Government Ethics Judy Nadler has been selected as 'Woman of the Year' for the 22nd Assembly District.
Home Run or Foul Ball
What are the ethical issues to consider when a city manager is dealing with city contracts?
Judy Nadler
Our debt to the future: Will our children pay for the negative consequences of our current choices
When is it appropriate to ask the next generation to pay bills we incur today?
Judy Nadler
Ethics and Public Contracting
Conflicts of interest in public contracting cost public confidence.
Judy Nadler
Ethical Considerations for Candidates and Their Supporters
The task of raising money for a political campaign can be so overwhelming that many qualified individuals don't run for office simply because they don't want to ask for money. Here are some ethical considerations to consider in fundraising for your campaign, or on someone else's behalf.
Judy Nadler
Campaign Ethics: Considerations for Candidates and Their Supporters
Key issues related to fundraising, communications, and campaign conduct
Judy Nadler
Ethics in Contracting
Judy Nadler, senior fellow in government ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, speaks at League of California Cities, US conference of Mayors, and Fire Academy.
Will city's ethics reform bear fruit? City Task Force Could Learn a Lesson from Picking Cherries
As San Jose's task force on ethics meets to review and revise ethics provisions of the San Jose Municipal Code, Judy Nadler offers the following observations on some similarities between picking cherries and addressing government ethics.
Judy Nadler
Red Light, Green Light
Ten ethical dilemmas facing elected officials.
Judy Nadler
A Tale of Two Downtowns
How should a Vietnamese-American councilmember balance the needs of his own ethnic group and the needs of other segments of the community?
Judy Nadler
Supreme Court on Educational Diversity
From my standpoint as a constitutional law professor, a particularly interesting strand of the Grutter majority opinion is the reliance upon the First Amendment to uphold the right of public universities to value student body racial diversity.
Margaret M. Russell
Politics, the Supreme Court, and Affirmative Action
The decision in Grutter v. Bollinger that it was constitutionally permissible for public colleges and universities to consider race in student admissions was transparently political, in the sense that the outcome was grounded more in the political choices of the justices and the surrounding political context than in any objective legal principles.
Brad Joondeph
Shocking thought: Get serious about ethics
What steps can be taken to rebuild public confidence in the independence of elected officials?
Judy Nadler
Ethical Political Leadership: Speaking Hard Truths
Some part of the responsibility for the unwillingness to speak the hard truths must rest with the public who are woefully mistrustful and uninformed about how government works.
Judy Nadler
Allocating and Stewarding Water Resources
The issues surrounding water-its availability, price, use, quality, and ownership-are affecting local governments and citizens on a regular basis.
Judy Nadler
Unavoidable Ethical Dilemmas of Newly-Elected Local Officials
As part of the Center's commitment to government ethics, Senior Fellow Judy Nadler convened 13 mayors and council members for Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to share the top ethical dilemmas confronting every person who comes into local elected office.
Judy Nadler
Alice Hayes and Affordable Housing
A new city councilmember must weigh the community's need for affordable housing with the desire to preserve open space.
Judy Nadler
Business as Usual
A retired city engineer goes back to work for the city as an independent contractor. When he bids for a job, a councilmember raises questions.
Judy Nadler
Case of the Big Box Retailer
A revenue shortfall causes a city council to consider the tax benefits from a big-box retailer versus the potential harm to established small businesses.
Judy Nadler
The Mayor and the Manager
A case exploring the proper relationship between city councilmembers and city staff.
Judy Nadler
Old Friends and Conflicts of Interest
How do relationships with "old friends" change when someone is elected to public office?
Judy Nadler
Sex in the City
Is an elected official's personal life legitimately "private"?
Judy Nadler
Right of Way
As the California coastline changes because of the ocean's continual pounding, the question is asked who has access to the fluctuating landscape?
Rob Elder
Ethical Implications of California's Recall Election
A panel discussion with SCU professors of political science.
Ethics at Noon
Budget Crunch Ethics
A California State Assembly member discusses the ethical choices legislators face during a budget crisis.
Joe Simitian
State's accounting tricks cheat future taxpayers
The responsibility of one generation is shifted to the next by accounting gimmicks.
William K. Black
The Case of the Sikh Temple
Plans for a 94,000 square foot structure raise questions about the zoning of a house of worship.
Mark Ralkowski
Privacy vs. Security
The Center's Framework for Ethical Decision making is applied to privacy vs. security concerns in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
Bharath Krishnamurthy
The Cyber City Network
An online network for city services raises questions about access and whether the provision of services electronically will increase disparities between rich and poor.
Thomas Shanks
Lying in Government
Peter Minowitz, author of "Straussophobia," leads a discussion of "the noble lie."(podcast)
Emerging Issues Group