The mission of the Center for Ethics in Public Life is to promote the highest standards of ethical conduct in public service so as to ensure honest and accountable government that preserves the public trust and serves its citizens with fairness, civility and good conscience.
The vision of the Center for Ethics in Public Life is to advance the principles of honest, open government that enables citizens to be informed participants in the democratic process and to promote the value and practice of governance based on the merits of issues, free from favoritism, prejudice or conflict of interest.
The work of the Center is informed by the following purposes:
- To educate state and local elected and appointed officials about the provisions of the Missouri constitution and statutes governing the ethical conduct of public officials, and to inform such officials of interpretations of Missouri’s ethics laws rendered by the Missouri Ethics Commission or by Missouri courts.
- To educate candidates for public office on the provisions of Missouri’s campaign finance laws, and to promote ethical practices in the conduct of election campaigns.
- To ensure that Missouri’s ethics laws will enhance public trust and confidence in the political process and the integrity of public service.
- To promote ethical decision-making and personal integrity in the conduct of executive officials, legislative bodies, and boards and commissions, and to foster dialogue among elected officials and public administrators concerning best practices and prevailing standards in governmental ethics.
- To research, explore, and articulate ethical issues and the dynamics of ethical decision-making in the context of public policy, public administration, and the deliberations of legislative bodies and boards, and to serve as a clearinghouse for information concerning subjects of ethical concern in the public arena.
- To foster constructive public participation in the political process and encourage citizen interest in government service.
- To implement any other strategies that contribute to higher standards of behavior in public life and instill motivation for developing the competencies to engage in ethical conduct.
- To utilize the resources of the UMSL community (students, faculty and administration) in the furtherance of knowledge about ethics in public life. As a public research institution with an urban land-grant mission, the University provides an ideal environment in which to provide education and research on issues in public ethics.
The Center For Ethics In Public Life Will Fulfill Its Mission Through:
Training Of Public Officials In Ethical Standards Of The Law And The Values Of Public Service. Training will focus on two principal-and interrelated-areas of concern:
1. Statutory Compliance
To inform and educate elected and appointed officials concerning their legal responsibilities under Missouri law in the area of ethical conduct through a series of seminars, workshops, and conferences scheduled on a periodic basis throughout the year and eventually held in regional locations around the State of Missouri.
- Expertise will be drawn from the Missouri Ethics Commission, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, former elected officials and public administrators, as well as faculty with relevant expertise from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and other academic or public interest institutions.
- To maximize reach and efficiency, programs may be held in conjunction with meetings of professional associations of government officials such as the Missouri Municipal League, the Missouri Association of Counties, or regional planning organizations.
- In particular, the training program will include (but not be limited to) topics such as: conflict-of-interest regulation, personal financial disclosure requirements, public records and open meeting requirements, and lobbying regulations.
- To inform candidates for public office in the requirements of campaign finance laws and the requirements to disclose and report contributions and expenditures for the evaluation of the electorate, training will be offered primarily through seminars and workshops tailored for aspirants to elective office.
2. Ethical Decision-Making
To develop ethical competence in all aspects of a public official’s conduct (not just in compliance behavior), the Center will sponsor educational events and seminars that will:
- Strengthen public officials’ commitment to and motivation for engaging in ethical decision-making.
- Assist public officials in the development of an ethical framework for leadership and decision-making.
- Provide instruction about skills and techniques for effective ethical decision-making.
- Facilitate discussion about ethical challenges or dilemmas that require a thoughtful response.
- Examine good practices in official conduct which will promote ethical performance and inspire public confidence.
Programs would also include dialogue regarding best practices in the conduct of campaigns which further free, fair, open, and honest debate of the issues and candidate qualifications.
In addition, the Center will provide state and local governments with the resources and tools necessary to develop values-based codes of ethics for formal adoption by a political subdivision or agency as well as guidance on their meaningful implementation.
Advocacy Of Public Integrity In Government Deliberations And Operations. Also via Ongoing Dialogue With Citizens, Lobbyists And Public Interest Organizations. To promote the virtues and benefits of honorable civic character and trustworthy ethical conduct in government, the Center will champion ethical principles and practices to the community at large. Such efforts might include (but not be limited to):
- A website devoted to updates on current ethical issues and debates in the public sector, as well as an interactive component that enables on-line dialogue about subjects of ethical concern.
- A newsletter and other publications that provide in capsule format information concerning topics of ethical concern in government service as well as reference to resources for further information.
- Utilization of the print and broadcast media to provide citizens with an awareness of the ethical requirements and obligations of public service, and to promote accountability of elected and appointed government officials to their constituents in adhering to the highest standards of ethical behavior.
- A series of instructional courses in public sector ethics and ethical decision-making that leads to a Certificate in Ethics in Public Service.
- Specific course offerings for university credit on ethics in public service for aspiring government professionals who are students in public policy administration, political science, and other relevant fields.
Research Into Good Practices In Other Communities, States and Nations That Enhance Ethical Awareness, Competence and Commitment.
To research and evaluate ethics laws and requirements in other states and nations, and to track new legislation and trends in the domain of governmental ethics. Such research would be the basis for recommendations to the Missouri General Assembly of amendments to Missouri’s ethics statutes. These recommendations would be designed to strengthen legal standards of ethics in state and local government, and improve public confidence in the conduct of public service responsibilities. To collect and disseminate good practices in the promotion of ethical behavior in public life. To research ethical topics and dilemmas from historical and contemporary perspectives, and offer perspective on the resolution of specific incidents of ethical concern in public life.