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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

UNCOVERING VARIATION IN CITY ETHICS POLICIES

Policies governing ethics vary dramatically from city to city; some practices are relatively common, and others are found in far fewer governments. Thanks to the Houston Controller’s Office there’s now a useful guide to the prevalence of various ethics policies and practices in that city, and in 17 others that the audit division examined, both in Texas and around the U.S.  Though the report doesn’t expose which cities lack policies in one or more of these areas, it is an extremely useful tool for cities interested in comparing themselves to others. 


The cities were chosen for their geographic location, size and reporting structure and included six in Texas -- Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Lubbock, and San Antonio – as well as Atlanta, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego and San Jose.



Houston’s auditors explored the presence or absence of eight policies, or policy attributes, they considered essential: An established ethics board; ethics training; a separate ethics policy, and policies that focused on financial disclosure, whistleblower protection, conflict of interest, nepotism, and the receipt of gifts.


Only Houston gets 100% for having all the ethical policies auditors deemed essential.


Otherwise, the benchmarking effort found 88% (or 15) of the cities it examined had separate ethics policies, as well as policies that dealt with conflict of interest and the receipt of gifts. That means that two, in each case, did not.


Whistleblower policies, found in only three cities, were the least common (18%), followed by the seven cities where policies were targeted at ethics training (41%); nine with financial disclosure policies (53%), and 11 involving the establishment of an ethics commission or board or a nepotism policy (65%)


The report also takes a deeper dive into Houston’s practices to see how they were utilized by various departments. Auditors looked at five of the city’s 22 departments: Public Works, Legal, Finance, General Services and Health, administering a questionnaire to each, while also evaluating documentation.


While Houston requires each employee to have comprehensive ethics training at least once during their tenure, and conflict of interest training occurs annually, only one of the five departments “emphasized ethics training as part of its ethical policy and procedure,” according to the report. Just two of the five departments had what the report termed a “quasi-monitoring program in place.” One of these used an internal review group. The other reviewed employee work products.


The audit team observed generally that ethics-related information could be difficult for employees to find, and that “access to hotline/web portal information requires navigation through multiple webpages.”


It recommended that the city establish greater visibility of ethics information, as well as increased visibility of the Houston Ethics Commission, including its meeting schedule and recommendations.


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MANAGEMENT UPDATE ARCHIVES.

ASPAS NEW H. GEORGE FREDERICKSON SOCIAL EQUITY CENTER

RETHINKING FINANCIAL REPORTING

NINE CITIES HONORED FOR FORGING A FUTURE WITH DATA

THE IBM CENTERS NEW ADVISORY COUNCIL

STATES MAY SAVE MONEY ON MEDICARE BUT AT WHAT COST

ENERGIZING INTERGENERATIONAL MOBILITY 

IF IT HAPPENS IN LOUISIANA KEEP IT IN LOUISIANA

PREDICTING STATE EXPENDITURES

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