Ethics Policy

ETHICS POLICIES: Adopted May 23, 1995, Amended September 21, 1999

Download the BOC Ethics Policy (PDF)

This manual is intended to provide guidance in resolving the ethical problems which arise out of conflicts between County Commissioners’ public roles on the one hand, and such private roles as business owner, family member, or political candidate on the other.

These policies are derived from observation of the real problems which have arisen in Ingham County government during three decades, combined with a focus on the practical steps which might have helped to prevent or minimize those problems if they had been in effect. It does not borrow heavily on rules that have been proposed or adopted elsewhere. It does not generally attempt to direct the conduct of elected officials other than the County Commissioners, except indirectly by shaping general County policy on hiring or purchases, or by setting an example worthy of emulation.

The most difficult problems in ethics seem to arise primarily where a person’s public and private roles come into contact and potential conflict. County Commissioners are on one hand chosen in a formal election process to be abstract instruments of public policy, exercising governmental power in the pursuit of the public welfare. But of course, they remain people with families, careers, and financial needs. Most times one role or the other is in clear command, but there are crucial moments where it is necessary to shift between public and private roles—when for an instant neither the elected official nor any onlooker could say for certain which role predominates. The essential problem of governmental ethics is finding and implementing strategies for dealing with the problems that arise at that boundary.