Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ethics and State Employees

The 2003 Ethics Act was crafted to make government ethics a regular part of state employment. In reaction to Operation Safe Road, with proven tales of political work on taxpayer time, the 2003 Act not only set out clear guidelines for what was acceptable and what wasn't, it also created an apparatus for enforcing the rules, including a complaint process and regular training to ensure that all state employees understood.

The Act was passed four years ago. How's it going now? A new survey conducted by the Executive Ethics Commission finds many bumps in the road. Among the findings:

  • Over 87% identify one or more elements in their workplace that indicate an unhealthy ethical climate.
  • Only 35.5% perceive no problem of retaliation against those who bring complaints.
  • Over 45% believe that senior officials are held to different ethical standards than other employees.
The news wasn't all gloomy. Most employees say they're getting the training they should and are familiar with the requirements of the 2003 Act. But employees aren't sure the Act is being followed as stringently as it should be. And the Commission suggests more hands-on training, rather than the computer-based system that's in place now.

The Commission has made copies of the report available, and soon we'll get it posted on ICPR's homepage. Bernie Schoenberg has the story, and the report, in today's SJ-R.

The 2003 Act was a giant leap for Illinois, the most significant move by the state in years. But if it isn't updated, modified, tweaked, and refreshed, it won't do what it created to do. The Commission supports SB 157 as one necessary tweak, creating more transparency, and we agree. But there's a lot more work to be done to ensure that government is an ethical place to work.

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