Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Public Sector Roundtable Ethics Hot Spots, Nov. 2009

  • Use of Electronic Communication in Campaigns
    1. If "ads" run on YouTube how can the public know who paid for the ad?
    2. Should electronic campaigning - video, email, blogging - be subject to the same disclosure rules as other campaign expenditures? How could this be accomplished?
    3. Is a YouTube posting considered advertising?
    4. How will the move toward use of electronic communication and social media impact the truth and integrity we wish to see in campaigns?
    5. Will the potentially anonymous nature of social media add to the current concerns about third-party expenditures?
  • Gifts and Employees
    1. Should there be a different standard for acceptance and disclosure of gifts for elected, appointed, and hired public servants? If so, why?
    2. If there is a "double standard" -- $10 limit for employees but a $50 limit for elected officials, does this pass a legal test? How does it look to the public?
  • Independent expenditures
    1. The FPPC is now requiring even more limits on donations and disclosure. How can that trend be reconciled with the recent ruling (Citizens United versus the Federal Elections Commission) that seems to open the flow of corporate money into campaigns and to candidates?
  • Volunteer policy
    1. If a former councilmember or mayor votes on development issues, then volunteers in the planning department on related issues, is there a real or perceived conflict of interest?

      • Should volunteers be required to disclose finances and conflicts in the same way that public officials (including commissioners) are required to do?
      • Would it matter if that person volunteered in a department other than planning?

  • How much responsibility should we attach to having the names of public officials on letterheads, invitations, and the like from nonprofit organizations? Does this practice encourage influence-peddling, or the perception of quid pro quo?
  • If romantic relationships are not permitted in the workplace, how do we address those relationships when they occur between an elected official and a city commissioner?
    1. Is there a difference if the couple is married or cohabitating? How can elected officials maintain close friendships with individuals they have known long before entering office without bringing up questions of favoritism and the like?

  • How can we move the media coverage and public debate from the trivial and often very personal matters so that we can discuss real problems?
  • When and how do we decide to end a lengthy and expensive legal battle when the cost of litigation exceeds the original claim?
    1. Can you still fight waste, fraud, and unethical, illegal behavior if you settle rather than litigate these types of disputes?
    2. What is a government agency's responsibility to deal with tainted vendor? How far should a public agency go to expose that corrupt contractor or vendor?

  • Outrageous behavior by elected officials often seems to come from a sense of entitlement. What can be done to correct the system so that we don't create or encourage this feeling of entitlement? Can we treat elected officials differently so they do not feel "privileged"?

  • New Materials

    Center News