Municipal Government Codes of Ethics: A Content Analysis
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A code of ethics is a written compilation of standards of conduct that represent values collectively imposed on individuals by organizations, professional associations, or political jurisdictions. Codes of ethics can support the independence of government officials and help administrators resist inappropriate outside influence. With this in mind, the research purpose is three-fold: 1) to describe the types of information that should be included in a municipal government code of ethics; 2) to assess the information contained in U.S. state capitol city codes of ethics; 3) based upon this assessment, make recommendations for improving municipal codes of ethics.
The methodology used to achieve the research purpose is content analysis. Content analysis is utilized to study the communication of elements in codes of ethics from 31 of the 50 state capitol cities that responded to requests to provide a copy of their city's code of ethics for research. The communication of 37 individual elements was measured by gauging the codes of ethics against a practical ideal type code of ethics made up of 4 ideal type categories that were developed directly from professional literature. The 4 ideal type categories are personal honesty, poIitics/Iaw, training, and procedural/technical. Data from gauging the codes of ethics against the practical ideal type were recorded through the use of a manifest content coding sheet developed directly from the conceptual framework.
The findings of the research indicate that no analyzed code of ethics contained all 37 elements prescribed by the practical ideal type code of ethics. Only one code of ethics contained between 26 to 30 of the ideal type elements (3.2%). The majority of the 31 codes of ethics contained 11 to 15 of the prescribed elements (38%). The results reveal an enormous variation in the construction and quality of codes of ethics with regard to content.