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What does it mean to be “ethical” in local government?

Ethics: the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation. - The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2005)

You might have heard or read about ethics in the news recently since the Philadelphia City Council has been discussing bills designed to make the local government more ethical.

One issue that has been in the spotlight since last fall is “pay-to-play” thanks to the federal government’s investigation in Philadelphia.


“Pay-to-play”

“Pay-to-play” involves elected officials giving city contracts to people or companies who donated money to their campaign funds. According to Mayor John Street and other city leaders, this has been how government contracts have been given out in Philadelphia for many years. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, former Mayor Frank Rizzo used to say, “I have to give them (contracts) to somebody. You don't expect me to give them to my enemies, do you?"

But giving contracts to campaign donors is not illegal unless politicians cross the line and explicitly agree to hand out contracts in exchange for money. This is often called “quid pro quo,” which is Latin for "what for what" or "something for something." So an elected official or his staff can’t say, “You give us the money, and we’ll do something for you” or “it’s time for you to donate money or we’ll take your city contract away.”

Right now in Philadelphia, federal officials are trying to prove whether city employees, business leaders and campaign fundraisers crossed that line. The City Council is trying to make it harder for “pay-to-play” to occur with a bill that would force campaign donors to reveal themselves when they seek certain city contracts. If council members approve the bill, voters would then decide whether to change the rules in a public referendum on the May primary ballot.


City Council bill

Council members are scheduled to vote Thursday, March 17, on a bill that would make it harder for city contracts to go to big campaign donors and try to curb “pay-to-play.”

Some of the things the bill would do include:

• Require people or firms seeking no-bid contracts to disclose campaign contributions to any public official in Pennsylvania going back four years.
• Firms would have to name any consultants they used to get the contract. The consultants would also have to say who they donated money to during the past four years.
• The city would have to post all this information and it would have to be attached to a no-bid contract before it is awarded. Then the city would have to publicize on its website the name of the firm receiving the work, the basis for the award, and whether the firm was the lowest bidder and, if not, why.


What does ethical government mean to you?

Council members have also been discussing whether it should be legal for elected officials and other city employees to accept gifts from companies doing business with the city. They have also been talking about banning nepotism, which is favoritism for family members of elected officials and other city employees when it comes to hiring for jobs.

Do you think people related to elected officials and other city employees should be blocked from getting city jobs?

Do you think that without the law, relatives would be unfairly hired?

What about pay-to-play? Do you think campaign donors and business owners should be favored when it comes to getting city contracts because they helped get someone elected or treated someone to a fancy dinner or Super Bowl tickets?

What is unethical behavior for an elected official? Join the discussion and let us know!

Related links:
Proposed donation limits are doubled
Council awaiting ethics votes
'Pay to play' entrenched in the city
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Comments
4/19/2005

Albert R.
Bodine High School
The word 'ethical' means that people who are devoted about their job, try to do the best for the people and not for themselves. It also means trying every alternative there is in order to try to make the city a better place.

4/14/2005

Danielle
Olney High School
I think what it means to be ethical in government is to be morally correct when you come into office and by sticking to what you say you will do to make the city or state better.

4/11/2005

Amber
Bodine High School
Ethics deals with the proper way to act in the political arena. Ethics not only depends on morals, however, there are tangible consequences for those who do not follow proper ethics: in business, you may lose customers and in politics, you may face jail time as well as the possibility of losing of your constituents. Ethics stops people from taking advantage of others.

4/8/2005

geraldo n.
bodine
In my opinion being ethical in local government means that you should have the moral disciple to exert a positive aura towards others and the task at hand. In any case, being ethical in student government allows you to play an important role in the welfare of society and in the lives of many people; being ethical means being willing and wanting to make a difference. Being committed is the key factor. If many more people played an ethical role in society, the world would be a better place.

4/8/2005

Danielle, Des.
Olney High School
Our comments are that ethical means to make the most possible sense and to be able to justify the information you put forth to whomever you are trying to make a statement towards. Also when trying to make the most possible sense in stating or justifying information, you have to make sure it is morally correct.

4/7/2005

Francesca C.
Bodine High School
I think the word 'ethical' means to have morals and to do the right thing at all times. I think it also means to be professional about a job or a role that you play and not let yourself forget your purpose in why you are doing something.

4/7/2005

Tashanna H.
Bodine High School
Going against our human instincts to cheat. It is difficult to work just as hard, or even harder when you have the power and the 'know how' to do what is easy. Ethical is fairness by any means.

4/7/2005

Sophavy P.
Bodine High School
when the word ethical comes up in local government, there is not a doubt in my mind that all of our voices are not being heard through our government system. Sometimes I wonder what it means to live in America when we do not have the actual freedom as stated in the Constitution. what happened to benefit for all?

4/7/2005

Janice B.
Bodine
In my opinion I think ethics in local government means being in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the conduct of a profession.

3/23/2005

Michael S.
Mastbaum A.V.T.S.
The discipline in dealing with governmental issues with morals and obligation.

3/22/2005

Mallory
Capa
To be ethical in government is to respond to certain issues with the desires of your constituents rather than allowing your own scruples to control your actions in government.

3/21/2005

Justin G.
GAMP
In order to run anything, a city or a glee club, you need to have 'discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.' As an official, one tries not only to better the affected area legally but also to better the kind of people you lead. You can't better laws or those whom you lead if you yourself are found in the shadow of conspiracy.

3/18/2005

Jaffar M.
Mastbaum A.V. T. S.
I think the word ethical means doing something wrong in the work place. It is wrong for the businessperson to have favoritism towards family members. I do think that people should hire family if they are the best qualified for the job.

3/18/2005

Mr. Wilson
Mastbaum
'Ethics' in local government is very important. Without ethics we're just as bad as people in jail.

3/18/2005

ramir
mastbaum high
the local government needs to be ethical. They need to be more disciplined with society.

3/18/2005

ALEX
MASTBAUM
To be ethical is to be fair and not treat others like nobodies. If I am an employer and my cousin wants to work for me and I have another person who wants to work for me, but I only have one position open, just because my cousin is my cousin that doesn't mean that I am going to hire him/her. I may hire the other person if I want to because he or she may be the better candidate for the job. I would hire the best person for the job.

3/18/2005

Gilberfy P.
Mastbaum
i think that it's a good idea that philadelphia is planning to make that bill. i would ensure that big businesses will not get an extra advantage over other businesses so politicians are not being bought.

3/18/2005

Kevin L.
Mastbaum A.V.T.S
I think people related to elected officials and other city jobs should not be blocked from getting city jobs but it should be watched and regulated so relatives would not be unfairly hired.

3/17/2005

dana d
GAMP
The local government needs to be ethical. They have unbelieveable jobs with sometimes no morals. They get paid so much and sometimes still steal from the workplace. To be ethical in the local government means that they need to know right from wrong and have some type of morals.

3/17/2005

Danielle
GAMP
To be ethical in politics today is to be a fish out of water. Many politicians of our generation are corrupt and unjust. Despite our constant protests nothing seems to be done. As to whether or not officials have 'crosssed the line' is the big issue. Bribes and payoffs shouldn't happen, jobs should be given to those who are deserving not to friends or family. Something has to be done and these officials who are only trying to help themselves should be removed.

3/17/2005

Ashley J.
Gamp
To be 'ethical' in a local government means that you handle government issues with moral duty and fairness.

3/17/2005

Lauren C.
GAMP
What i think it means to be 'ethical' in local government is that they shouldn't hire their family and friends because the jobs should go to the most deserving individuals.

3/17/2005

Desiree S.
G.A.M.P.
In politics, ethics is a trait some people either don't have or don't make an effort to have. In our government, elected officials should do their best to make decisions and come to conclusions that will benefit society as a whole. To be ethical means to have consideration for other people and their values, individuality, interests, and concerns. No one should be favored for certain things and every citizen should be viewed as equal.

3/17/2005

Stephen K
GAMP
To be ethical in local government not only refers to the moral dealings with good and bad for the government, but it must also be beneficial to the citizens of the city. When a person accepts a 'bribe' and gives out contracts, it is disputable whether or not it is ethical. It is human nature to support what is beneficial to them, even if it is morally unacceptable. If, for instance, the contract helped many people within the city, they might try to look past it even if they know something should be done about it.

3/17/2005

Stephanie L
GAMP
Being ethical in a local government means that the representatives should listen to what the people in that area have to say about their views and opinions. They shouldn't just go out and do what they think is right without having the citizens decide.

3/17/2005

JACQUI
GAMP
To be ethical in local government means to have morals. This sometimes gets in the way of city council doing their job. These beliefs cause favoritism and the officials try to appoint thier family members into the city government. This means that people do not have the full right of electing and voting people into office to represent us. It is also unethical to take advantage of your 'position' and give the rewards to family and friends. For example, city officials can recieve passes or tickets from companies for games or concerts and give them to family or friends. They also should not be able to recieve gifts-- they are only doing their job-- and shouldn't get a reward other than their pay.

3/17/2005

Rachel S.
Girard Academic Music Program
In local government, a person's ethics are based upon their point of view of a subject. To be 'ethical' in local government means that a person must represent his or her side of an argument or problem. If this means that they must vote, then the person should do so. If, for example, a person has been chosen to serve on jury duty, their 'ethical' duty is to listen intently and choose a side to defend. Ethics are a person's obligation to deal with a situation that best demonstrates the person's position.

3/17/2005

Michael Z.
GAMP
The 'pay-to-play' idea has been one that has been going on for years and frankly, it 'll be going on for years even if a law is passed. Things which are so-called 'illegal' go on and officals turn a blind eye to it. The practice of helping someone out is something which goes on everyday between friends so why not allow it to go through in the government? But companies should disclose what they bid for a contract. Nepotism is something which falls along the helping friends line, but in this case it is family. Accepting a gift is not that big of a problem. If I did something then I would sure love someone to give me a gift. Ah, the joys of government.

3/17/2005

Vincent E.
GAMP
To be 'ethical' in local government is to be a more disciplined society. I feel that the local government ethics vary depending on what the 'hot' topic is at the time. At this particular time the topic is giving jobs to people related to government politicians. I feel that it is ethical if the people do their job well. Many times these workers tend to help their cause or their relatives' cause. I do believe it is ethical that the government is trying to stop the techniques of the many relatives who are now employed. Local government has certain ethics which it follows and also has ethics in which it overlooks. I do feel it is ethical that the local government is involved in what is going on currently.

3/17/2005

Kris R.
GAMP
The 'pay-to-play' idea is pretty neat and the contracts keep the 'play' clean. The officials just shouldn't keep it shady, they should let the public know where they are getting their campaign money and how they will use it.

3/17/2005

Tara S.
GAMP
To be 'ethical' in any environment means to do what is morally right in general. Everyone has their views and perspectives on what is morally right because everyone is raised and taught differently. It is especially important to be ethical within the local government because it is the closest and most hands-on direct type of government within the 3 levels (federal, state, local); therefore, it is the closest to the citizens. The question about nepotism, would you like it if you couldn't get a job because you were related to an elected official? It's a different story when it's someone else's disadvantage. We as citizens should all do what is morally right to better the morals and values of future generations-and not let jealousy or envy degrade what we think is "the right thing to do."

3/17/2005

LAUREN D.
GAMP
Being ethical in today's society is a major issue. The government is not being fair and giving deserving people chances for city jobs. Everybody should have a chance without having to bribe and send gifts to city employees or elected officials.

3/17/2005

Pat D.
GAMP
I like the Play to Play idea... I guess it works but is it ethical? I really don't like getting into Buisness Ethics and Gov't Ethics... The Question about the Gifts... I think accepting a gift is improper. When something deals with the LAW, everyone should be looked at equally through the eyes of the govt.

3/17/2005

GennaroC.
G.A.M.P.
I believe being ethical in local governmeant means to be fair and just. City officals must make decisions based on the good and well being of the entire community. There can me no favorites. Each community is of equal importance, and therefore, deserves equal attention. I also believe that it is alright for elected officals to accept gifts if they are out of gratitude. But these gifts should not affect any decisions or give anyone special treatment.

3/17/2005

Christina D
GAMP
To be ethical in the local government means to have morals and obligations.

3/17/2005

Gabrielle S.
GAMP
People related to elected officials and other city employees should definitely be allowed to work for the city, but they need to be treated just like everyone else when it comes to actually getting the job. There have been many instances where people are hired just because they are family members, even when they are not qualified, and that is in no way right or fair. In these cases 'fair' should not be simply considered as 'a four letter word.' Everyone should treated equally. That's what this country is supposed to be about, right? Without the laws, relatives could definitely be unfairly hired. It happens all the time and it needs to be stopped. However, relatives aren't the only people we need to worry about. You still must account for friends and acquaintances. It really is a problem and it's very hard to understand what some of these people are thinking. Pay-to-play? I say NO WAY! The city government isn't a marketplace and shouldn't be taking on the job. The real question is 'What about contracts for our educators who work tirelessly to get the students they teach to succeed?'

3/17/2005

Cindy
GAMP
Everyday, many changes are made in our community, but are they necessary? I feel as if the government has the obligation to do things that will help and improve the community. Building more schools and spending more money to improve the schools and libraries is one of their obligations and not buildings that are not as important.

3/17/2005

Sharday W.
G.A.M.P
If it is the duty and obligation of an official ethically to deal with what is morally good and bad, then moral favoritism is an issue that should be addressed. It is unethical for an official to favor one just because they helped him/her get elected for a position. If favoritism continues to be a part of the government then people who are truly worthy of representing us will never be accounted for.

3/17/2005

Brittany G
GAMP
To be ethical means to know the difference between right and wrong. Everyone should have a fair chance.

3/17/2005

Jessica
GAMP
Yes, I believe that without the law, relatives of elected officals would be hired unfairly. Even today, relatives of city officals are being handed jobs more easily than others who struggle.

3/17/2005

M.Anzideo
G.A.M.P.
I believe ethics have a lot to do with the local government. One, it sets a tone for the government. Two, the government sets a keen example about what fair and unfair may be. Third, a fair government is what people want, not a discriminatory one.

3/17/2005

Lesli J.
GAMP
Being 'ethical' in local government means that affairs and business should be run fairly and morally. So many times 'dirty' politics are practiced which can hinder those under the local government. I do not believe that family members should get city jobs because too much favoritism can be played and family members undeserving of jobs would recieve the jobs over a more deserving person. I also do believe that without the law relatives would be unfairly hired.

3/17/2005

Rachael
Girard Academic Music Program
In the local government and even around the country we see that everyday there are people who are unethical in the government by either reading about it in the newspaper or hearing about it on television. No matter what the issue may be concerning or who is related to who or who does special favors for so-and-so, there should always be a line that is drawn between personal and business lives. No one should be treated in their buisness unfairly by gaining more of something or being an 'exception to the rule' just because of personal relationship between manager and employer or whatever the case may be. Treating people this way can cause damage to relationships and in the long run can harm the buisness.

3/17/2005

Alfred W.
Mastbaum AVTS
It maens to do what you think is right but sometimes it is hard to know what is right.

3/17/2005

karl k.
GAMP
To be ethical in local gov't means to be very straight forward. One issue that has been in the spotlight in Philadelphia is 'pay-to-play' thanks to the federal government's investigation that started in 2003 and is now in the courts. 'Pay-to-play' involves elected officials and their administration giving city contracts to people or companies who donated money to their campaign funds. Giving contracts to campaign donors is not illegal unless politicians cross the line and explicitly agree to hand out contracts in exchange for money. So an elected official or his staff can't say, 'You give us the money, and we'll do something for you.'

3/17/2005

Jessica
GAMP
To be 'ethical' in local government means to handle things fairly. To be ethical you must be truthful and be willing to give up what is necessary to achieve a fair outcome. You must remain unselfish and informed.

3/17/2005

Sedale
GAMP
I think that people related to elected officials and other city employees should not be blocked from getting city jobs. With or without the law if you are being interviewed by a relative or not the employer should hire the person best fit for the job. Sometimes the relative of the employoer happens to be the right person for the job. On the other hand some relatives cannot be trusted and it could hurt your business. In conclusion it really comes down who you can trust the most, an inteviewer or your relative?

3/17/2005

Nickia W.
GAMP
I think that to be ethical in local govenment means that the people in local offices should stick to their morals, meaning that they should make a decision based on the good ideas and quality of a person not based on their popularity or to please others. the people in local government should do what's best for the city, which may not always be what's popular.

3/17/2005

Christina F.
G.A.M.P.
To be 'ethical,' in local government means that they should be working professionally with respect and awareness of their colleagues feelings and beliefs. Most people have different morals in this world and when you are in the work place it's hard to discuss important issues without it offending someone or causing a fight, which is why discussions should just entail things that have to do with the work place that won't offend people. That's not to say that people can't have opinions, but when you are working with others you have to be careful of what you say.

3/17/2005

Janiece C.
Mastbaum
To be ethical in a local government means to do everything what is right in a government. For example give someone a job that is qualified not because you know them.

3/17/2005

Angelica
G.A.M.P
To be ethical in a local government means to have morals. In order to run a government you have to be able to listen to others and take their ideas into consideration. The city council's ideas i think are good ideas; hopefully, their ideas will be successful.

3/17/2005

Dana
GAMP
The definition of the word ethical states that you deal with the authority to oversee what is good and bad. Personally, I think this isn't practiced like it should be. In my opinion it means being able to look past the fact that a person is in your family or a close friend of yours, and seeing outside the relationship. In some cases that I have seen, people have been rejected from doing something because a family member of someone beat them simply because of their relationship to the employer. Although this appears unfair and 'unethical' this is what happens in life. And sadly, this is how some make it to the top while others follow behind.

3/17/2005

JOSEPH B.
MASTBAUM
I don't think that people should be picked just by whom they know or who they are. Everyone has their own talents and people need to realize them. Just you may know someone who is in need of a job or who is just looking for business. Just because you know a person doesn't mean that he or she can do that job better than the next person. People should be able to vote on who they want to back them up when they are in a corner, not someone who wouldn't do anything about it. Ethics are what keeps the place you are working for or place you own running in good condition. With out ethics the world wouldn't be anything as we know it today.

3/17/2005

ANTONIOJ.
MASTBAUM
The ethics of government deals with which laws should be cast and the procedures taken on how to discipline society. In short, ethics of government deals with the rights and wrongs, goods and bads to maintain a stable society.

3/17/2005

Omar O.
Mastbaum AVTS
I think that if you have a family member in the same department then you shouldnt be allowed to have the job. but if you have a family member in a different department and you are applying for a different job you should be able to get a job there.

3/17/2005

Antoinette W.
GAMP
To be 'ethical' in any circumstance simply means being just, fair, correct, decent, principled, proper and respectable. Being ethical means being moral despite rank, position, or office. Ethics is something that definitely should be prevalent in the government, but often it isn't. We see on a daily basis corrupt cops and officials, we see scams, bribes and such. We look up to our elected officials as if they are completely just and moral when in fact they're often aren't. What kind of example are they setting for citizens? When the appropriate level of morality is reached in local government, we as citizens of Philadelphia will be able to form a bond with our officials. A bond of trust between the people and those in public office is required. That trust demands our officials to be open and in touch with their communities. It requires clarity about what decisions are made, and who is to be held accountable for them. It demands that council enforces the discipline needed to achieve the best from local officials. It also demands that council goes after the highest standards of conduct.

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