Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Markkula Ethics Center and City of Santa Clara Partner on Project to Identify Core Values for City

While the American people's faith in civic ethics has been severely tried of late, at least one government is working to shore up its ethical decision making. The city of Santa Clara has entered into a partnership with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics to review the city's Code of Ethics and to develop core values to guide the behavior of the city council, city staff, and citizen participants.

Chair of the city's Ethics Ordinance Committee, Councilwoman Aldyth Parle, who initiated the program, said, "Every decision-making process has elements of ethics. We wanted to confirm our commitment to ethics and update our code."

Currently, the code deals with issues such as conflicts of interest, non-acceptance of gifts, and appropriate uses of city property, according to City Manager Jennifer Sparacino. Orig-inally drafted in the 1960s, the code has not been reevaluated in the past eight years.

The Ethics Center helped the city begin that process in January through a series of workshops led by Center Executive Director Thomas Shanks, S.J. These workshops established what kind of organization the city is when it functions at its best. The current Code of Ethics will be measured against this model and revised accordingly, said Buford Barr, director of Business Development for the Ethics Center.

But the project does not stop with the revision of the code. "We want our code to be more than a piece of paper that someone can read and then throw in the wastebasket," Parle said. "We want it to become a good model that we can be held accountable to."

The Ethics Center will also work with the city to help put the code into operation. Future workshops will focus on ethical decision making. Sparacino said the city expects that these will raise the level of ethical awareness among elected officials and city employees. "There are times when a red light should go on, and we should say, 'Wait. There's an ethical issue at stake here.'"

Both the Center and the city hope the process they develop will have implications beyond the borders of Santa Clara. "We entered into this partnership to help the city develop an ethical culture that could be a model for other municipalities," Barr said.