Business Ethics Training – What’s up in Cuyahoga County and Why aren’t more Municipalities taking a proactive Ethics approach?

Recently I was asked to speak at the Florida Association of Counties 2011 Annual meeting – my presentations will be on Ethics.  In the conversation leading up to the decision to engage me, it was interesting as I was told about numerous ethical issues that face elected officials and those staff employed by the various local governments.  All too often the focus on ethics is about WHAT to do and HOW to do it.  My presentation brings a different look at Ethics.  For me, to have an effective ETHICS program one must look beyond the “What” to the “WHY.”

When organizations can identify WHY otherwise ethical people make unethical decisions or do unethical things, then – and in my opinion – only then can you have a program that creates a true ethical culture.

I mention the above cause today I received notice that Cuyahoga County offers first ethics training for businesses which is a step in the right direction.  The article that appeared is as follows:

The training comes in the wake of a more than two-year federal corruption investigation, which has charged more than 50 people and exposed a culture of pay-to-play that extended from county offices to suburban school boards.

County Auditor Frank Russo has been sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison for his crimes, while Commissioner Jimmy Dimora has pleaded not guilty to charges and faces trial in January.

The county’s new ethics code is much stricter than one that used to govern the former commissioners’ offices. The policy forbids hiring of relatives, requires county officials and employees to disclose potential conflicts of interest and requires staff members and those doing business with the county to sign ethics statements. Contractors and lobbyists must register with the inspector general, and they may not give anything of value to employees or make campaign contributions.

Dettelbach, meanwhile, founded the Northeast Ohio Business Ethics Coalition in October. About 75 local companies have already joined, signing a pledge to reject corruption and unethical businesses practices.

“We continue to transform our region into a place where shakedowns are met not with silence and acquiescence, but with outrage and resistance,” Dettelbach said in the release. “Just as we do drug prevention by talking to kids in school, we are working with the business community and our public institutions to try to stop bribes and kickbacks before they occur.”

The training will take place from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the Cleveland Public Library, Louis Stokes Wing Auditorium. To register, visit the county web site and click on “Contract vendor ethics training registration.”

My hat is off to them and I suspect as more issues of corruption surface (and they will surface)… this type of proactive approach is something that is a clear step in the right direction.  My hope is that the training will not center solely on what is ETHICAL and what is not, but rather why people who know the difference between right and wrong – ethical and unethical – make unethical choices.  If we take the time to indentify the WHY we stand a much better chance of avoiding the WHAT that often leads to prison!



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