By Kate Elliott—
Muncie, IN—In early December, Muncie City Council members unanimously approved the first resolution Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour brought before them. Resolution 1-20 stipulates that all city government department appointees and supervisors participate in comprehensive ethics training, and all city employees engage in annual ethics training as a condition of their continued employment.
Ridenour said the resolution reflected his campaign promise for a more ethical and transparent city government. To facilitate ethics training, Ridenour turned to Shafer Leadership Academy, a Muncie non-profit that provides people of all ages, backgrounds and interests access to the tools necessary to develop and enhance their leadership skills.
“We looked at several options for this ethics training. In the final analysis, Shafer Leadership Academy was the best choice for the City of Muncie,” Ridenour said. “They are local, provide both in person and online options and the presenters were top notch.”
SLA enlisted two professors from Ball State to facilitate “An Eye for Ethics,” a custom program to address ethics in city government. Charles Taylor, associate professor of political science, and David Concepcion, professor of philosophy and religious studies, met virtually with more than 30 city employees to explore ethical theories and practical application. Taylor said the presentation and discussions focused on the law, development of sound policies, and the process of ethical decision-making.
“Dave created some really good cases for discussion. The participants saw that seemingly simple situations had many different ethical dimensions,” said Taylor, who is also the managing director for the Bowen Center for Public Affairs. “I hope participants can now go about their responsibilities with an awareness of these potential dilemmas, the conditions that support ethical decisions, and be prepared to make the right decision.”
Conception said he hoped participants left with three takeaways: “First, be vigilant. Conflicts of interest, or even merely perceived conflicts of interest, are common. They must be avoided whenever possible and managed well when unavoidable. Second, educate your friends, family and members of your office about what can and cannot influence you in your public role. Third, disclose potential conflicts. Report those conflicts to your supervisor and develop a plan for how to address it. Be prepared to reduce your role in, or recuse yourself from, a decision-making process.”
SLA Executive Director Mitch Isaacs said the organization was thrilled to engage city employees about ethics. He said it’s encouraging to know the Ridenour administration is eager to establish a culture of ethical, transparent operations, and SLA looks forward to continuing to build on the training through future sessions.
“Ethics is a complex, often overlooked topic of discussion. This training provided city employees with a deeper understanding of ethics and equipped them with some tools to address big and small ethical dilemmas,” Isaacs said. “It’s encouraging to know our city government is supporting city employees with the knowledge and confidence to operate with integrity.”
Muncie City Clerk, Belinda Munson, said she appreciated the engaging virtual discussions that drew on everyday situations examples that aren’t always cut-and-dry. Participants reviewed the distinction between ethical and legal considerations and walked through the conditions that often lead to ethical slips, including rationalizations, financial or peer pressure, and poor or nonexistent internal safeguards.
“Personally, I loved the case examples and group breakout sessions,” Munson said. “It was good to hear other people’s opinions regarding scenarios of possible unethical behavior.”
The ethics training is one of many custom programs SLA offers to businesses and organizations as a way to elevate employees and improve business outcomes through thoughtful, connected leadership.
Go to shaferleadership.com for an overview of the non-profit’s programs, scholarships and impact on the community. Keep up with SLA on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.