Conflicts of Interest, Ethics and Open Government

Table of Contents

Public SectorCollege District

Last Updated: 09-09-2020

The last few years have seen increased scrutiny by both the media and the public of all aspects of government. It is now more important than ever for public employees and officials to be aware of the high responsibilities and expectations that accompany public service.

Public employees and officials are required to act in the best interests of the public. They are charged with the protection and management of public assets and resources, and must at all times conduct themselves and their business dealings in accordance with ethical standards, regulatory requirements and the public trust.

Newspapers abound with stories of public officials under investigation for actions they have taken both on and off-duty. Local, state and federal investigations into decisions made by public officials, and the civil and criminal consequences of misconduct, are common events. Everyone recognizes that accepting kick-backs or pay-offs is improper, unethical and illegal. But the laws relating to conflicts of interest and other ethical obligations of public officers and employee assure that sometimes the greatest "challenge for public officers and employees lies in effectively discharging their duties while complying with all applicable ethical standards.

Government agencies, and their employees and officers, are subject to state and local ethics laws and codes of conduct that have been implemented to regulate conduct and behavior. These codes include restrictions relating to the acceptance of gifts, free trips and travel expenses, the acceptance of honorarium, conduct while searching for a new job, conduct after leaving public employment and many other matters.

Violations of these codes carry a multitude of consequences, from civil or criminal penalties to forfeiture of office. When government employees fail to comply with a governing ethics code, they may also be subject to discipline and discharge.  This workbook covers these laws and codes of conduct.

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