A New Code of Ethics for NRPA

Article excerpt

There seems to be an increase in concern today about ethics, especially in the public sector. One reason is the high-profile ethical violations that we hear about in the news. The media routinely report cases of cheating or wasting public funds at all levels of government from the U.S. Congress to the local city hall. Dishonesty and abuse of power in government continue to erode public confidence and diminish public support of the services we provide. These ongoing violations of the public trust are a serious problem and have brought government employees and elected officials under very close public scrutiny.

This article will discuss what NRPA has done to address this issue and what can be done in our local communities to meet the growing concern about ethics. In the early 1970s, the leadership of NRPA recognized the need for a professional code of ethics. A 33-member Ethics Committee was appointed that was chaired by Charles Pezoldt and Robert Scharbert. The Committee conducted a feasibility study in 1973 that revealed that most state affiliates of NRPA did not have ethical codes and wanted NRPA to develop one. Over the next three years, the Committee conducted an extensive involvement process that included two national meetings each year and input from all NRPA branches and state associations. This effort resulted in several worthwhile outcomes. First, seven ethical principles were identified that were intended to have universal application regardless of the professional branch. Second, a few of the NRPA branches wrote separate sections of the code that pertained only to their specific branch. Third, a manual was prepared that outlined suggested procedures for establishing and enforcing a code of ethics at the state level. The overall outcome of the committee's effort was a model that was presented for adoption and enforcement by each state association. Several states have used the NRPA model over the past 18 years to create their own code of ethics.

In October 1991, NRPA President Joe O'Neill and Chair Beverly Brandes recognized the need to again raise the level of ethical consciousness within our profession. They asked Bob Toalson to chair a task force to develop a new code of ethics for NRPA. Every NRPA branch, section, and region was asked to appoint a member to the Task Force. The goal of this effort was to create a concise code of ethics that would be adopted by the Board of Trustees and apply to all NRPA members. This was not an easy task because ethics are so difficult to define and apply. Values and ethical principles are by nature very personal, and it is difficult to apply them to a large association of people, especially one as diverse as NRPA.

The first meeting of the new Code of Ethics Task Force was held at the NRPA Mid-Year Forum in January 1992. Prior to the meeting, Task Force members reviewed a range of codes of ethics. These included the existing NRPA Ethics Manual of Procedures and Suggested Principles; the codes of ethics of several NRPA affiliates including California, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, Ontario, New York, Connecticut, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Missouri, Illinois, Wyoming, and Texas; the NTRS, CBM, APRS, and NSPR Codes of Ethics; and the ethical codes of several national associations including the International City Management Association, American Society of Public Administrators, Public Relations Society of America, American Camping Association, National Association of Counties, and Government Finance Officers Association. The review of existing codes and documents provided excellent resource material and background information for the Task Force to formulate the new NRPA Code of Ethics.

CODE OF ETHICS TASK FORCE

The efforts of the many groups and individuals who provided input and helped to create the NPRA Code of Ethics are greatly appreciated. Below is a list of those who served on the Task Force:

Bob Toalson, Task Force Chairman, Champaign Park District, Champaign, IL

Michelle Park, NRPA Staff Liaison, Arlington, VA

Dave Clark, Dept. …