Ethics Corner


Ethics Complaints

We’ve all seen that guy on the highway as he zooms past you and weaves in and out of traffic. You think, “Oh, I am sure there is a good reason he is speeding and driving recklessly. Must be a doctor racing to save a life, or maybe they just got news they have to donate an organ in only minutes and they are racing to get to the hospital, or maybe they are racing to disarm a bomb before it goes off.”

Right? -RIGHT?

Actually, after a few choice words, you are really thinking something more along the lines of, “If only I could give them a ticket…” Or perhaps you dream about wielding the power to turn them in. It may seem surprising, but individuals in TCMA find themselves in a similar situation where they can do something, but choose not to. A city manager is a member of TCMA, but is supporting a candidate for office, or brags on some tickets for an event they received for a show from a vendor. He or she may have been meeting with members of another city and discussing what the city manager of that city is doing wrong. The list goes on and on. It is not uncommon for TCMA members to observe the suspected violation and think, “Oh, someone else will turn them in.” Or, “That is something the Ethics Committee should catch and pursue.” Or worse, “Oh, it really doesn’t impact me, I should stay out of it.”

As a member of TCMA, we should follow Tenet 3. Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the respect and confidence of the elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public. The sixth guideline further encourages members to report such possible violations. A violation is not a victimless crime: everyone within the city management profession is impacted. To ignore possible violations of the Code of Ethics only harms the profession and could damage the city that employs the suspected violator. By reporting possible violations, you may even save the possible violator from doing more harm or performing some worse actions later.

The process for reporting is simple. There is a form that can be obtained from TML staff, that when used and completed as instructed, allows all of those involved to be dealt with fairly. This form states the offense, highlights and explains how the tenet(s) were violated with factual information, and is signed by the individual submitting the report. The form is not required, as long as the reporting of the possible violation is in writing. While the individual must sign a written complaint, he or she can request that their name be withheld. This kicks off the complaint process and allows the Ethics Committee to pursue the complaint. By not being the reporter of the violation, the members of the Ethics Committee can be impartial in their duties to investigate and to do so free from bias.

So, while TCMA wants to make sure no one becomes the reckless driver speeding through traffic, it also does not want you sitting in traffic wishing there was something you could do about the possible violation you just saw. Step up, be the responsible person that may save a life or prevent some tarnishing of the profession you hold so dearly. Show the public that TCMA members take ethics seriously and can police themselves.

 (Article authored by TCMA Ethics Chair, Nick Finan, Executive Director and City Secretary of Management Services, City Texas City)