By Larisa Svechin, Mayor
(Thursday, May 11, 2023) – Ethical government is different from everyday ethical behavior; it is not about being “good” or a “person of integrity.” Behavior that is commendable outside of government, like helping a family member get a post or repaying a favor one has been given, is considered wrong in a government setting.
Government ethics is the area of decision-making involving conflicts between the obligations government officials have toward the public, and their obligations to themselves and their family, their business associates, and others with whom they have a special relationship (known as “conflicts of interest”).
It is not just the reality of these responsibilities and actions, but also the appearance of these obligations and relationships. As elected officials, we make certain sacrifices to show the community that we are acting in the best interest of the community rather than for ourselves and those we hold as special. To some officials, this seems unfair. After all, elected officials have already sacrificed, serving as low-paid legislators and giving up their precious time for the community. Why should they have to sacrifice more? The reason is obvious. With power and authority comes responsibility and obligations. Obligations require sacrifice.
It is critical officials recognize that government ethics is not only beneficial to a community’s residents, but also to them. It protects the mayor and commission by providing rules and best practices, allowing us to deal with our obligations to others in situations that may be very uncomfortable. It takes just one decision that appears self-serving to lose the respect and trust of the community.
Government ethics’ primary goal is to promote the public’s trust in their elected officials, to put their personal interests aside in favor of the public interest. Without this trust, residents tend not to participate; they feel disconnected from their government and start to believe the government is designed to benefit the members of the commission, rather than serve the community. The opposite of trust is not distrust, which we need to keep our representatives accountable, but a lack of trust. A lack of trust causes people not to accept their government’s decisions as fair. A democratic government does not thrive when there is a lack of trust in those who govern it.
As your Mayor, I, along with the commission, am tasked with preserving institutional rather than personal integrity. In short, we are held to a higher ethical standard.