Good Government; Ethics Office Is a Win-Win

Article excerpt

The best of city government provides an important service and actually pays for itself.

Such is the case with the city of Jacksonville's Ethics Office.

As reported in an analysis of the ethics hotline from 2007 to 2011, the Ethics Office provided important services:

- It provided an outlet for complaints. Some were unfounded, but without an answer, they would have fed the rumor mill with unwarranted allegations.

- It educated the public. When people understand their government, they are more likely to trust it.

For instance, there has been a steady increase in city employees calling the ethics officer directly for advice on issues. This is the ideal.

- Improvements were identified. Some activities may be legal and ethical but far from the best practices. The Ethics Office provides an outlet for constructive suggestions.

- Complaints were handled timely. Valid ones are corrected promptly. Not valid ones were answered quickly.

In short, reports Ethics Officer Carla Miller, "A foundation has been laid for an effective communication tool with the community and a way for corruption and waste to be identified and handled."

Not the least, the office has paid for itself.

Miller identified savings ranging from $579,483 to $938,527. The cost of the part-time position for 3 1/2 years was about $262,000. …