Wednesday, August 09, 2006


AB 1234 is a new law put in place this year. AB 1234 requires that "all local agencies that provide compensation, salary, or stipend to, or reimburses the expenses of, members of a legislative body must provide ethics training to local agency officials by January 1, 2007, and every two years thereafter. This includes not only the governing body of a local agency, but also any commission, committee, board or other body of a local agency where permanent or temporary, decision-making or advisory..." California Fair Political Practices Commission

Whoa... that means me. Yesterday, I participated in the ethics training given to Sacramento City Council members and all the rest of us who sit on boards and advisory committees. Sitting in the plush new digs of the council chamber, a representative presented a long program regarding ethics and politics. Ethics is an interesting word similar to the word morals. Similar but subtley different; here are the definitions:

1. A set of principles of right conduct. A theory or a system of moral values.
2. ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy.
3. ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession: medical ethics.
Definition from Free Dictionary

1. Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny; a moral quandary.
2. Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior: a moral lesson.
3. Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous: a moral life.
4. Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong: a moral obligation.
5. Having psychological rather than physical or tangible effects: a moral victory; moral support.
6. Based on strong likelihood or firm conviction, rather than on the actual evidence: a moral certainty.
1. The lesson or principle contained in or taught by a fable, a story, or an event.
2. A concisely expressed precept or general truth; a maxim.
3. morals Rules or habits of conduct, especially of sexual conduct, with reference to standards of right and wrong: a person of loose morals; a decline in the public morals.
Definitions by Free Dictionary

A good example is the quandry that one of our legislators is facing. His spouse collected monies legally, but the public is wondering if it was morally or ethically challenged. Hmmm... listening to the speaker, I was struck with a sense of pride. This is a presentation of ethics and how it relates to governing agencies and boards and yet, I realize how much a piece of legislation like this could impact how the public and the political glitterati behave for the future. Bribes, compensation, conflict-of-interest, nepotism are all in the back of each of our minds as we watched the videos on compromising situations that scripted actors presented. There were also several videos of real-life examples where political figures were destroyed due to their compromises and unethical behavior. There was an interesting example regarding one of the environmental groups and environmental management. And lots of examples about developers trying to circumvent the planning process and how agency members can be propositioned
to perhaps, look the other way when making environmental decisions.

I loved the test example given to us and let me paraphrase this,"...if you don't want to read about it in the paper; then you probably don't want to do it!" In other words, an entity offering rewards, goods or gifts is a red flag and ya'll should be running as fast as you can away from the offer.

Our legislators, our administration could definitely take a lesson here... The Dolittle's, Bushies' and others may understand that ethics, legalities must be adhered to when governing, but if the general public feels that a moral or ethical compromise has been implemented; then maybe ya shouldn' have dun dat! I'll be watching my and my legislators' every step as it relates to my rivers and my citizenship.

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