Renaissance philosophers Montesquieu and Locke, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Supreme Court decisions.
Agency executives, managers, and other employees are often faced with ethical dilemmas. In his essay on "The Ethics of Administrative Discretion," Donald Warwick comments on dilemmas of professional integrity: "The most commonly mentioned ethical dilemmas have to do with conflicts between conscience and obedience to superiors; the use of deception, bribery, and other morally objectionable means; the uses and limits of administrative secrecy; conditions permitting or requiring 'whistle-blowing'; and the circumstances calling for resignation from public service."78 Some public officials are insensitive to ethical concerns except if they involve a clear violation of law or prescribed rule. Of course, everything that is lawful is not ethical. Lawful administrative discretion generally leaves room for decisions that are in harmony with commonly held values.
In a decision of the Supreme Court, former Justice Felix Frankfurter said, "The history of American freedom is, in no small measure, the history of procedure."79 There is the expectation that the rules and procedures developed and applied by government officials will be in harmony with our commonly held values. Citizen confidence in government is undermined when officials try to absolve themselves of responsibility for unethical actions with such explanations as: "I was just following orders"; "If I didn't do it, someone else would have"; "I had no choice."
There is the expectation that public officials will perform in a manner that demonstrates such qualities as personal integrity, commitment to the rule of law, respect for diversity of viewpoint, courage to decide in a timely way, and a concept of the public interest which leans decidedly toward administrative behavior that keeps alive and reinforces the great promises in the foundation documents of the nation--liberty, equality, justice, tranquillity, governing with the consent of the governed, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, right to privacy, due process, and equal treatment under the law.