BY JOSEPH GLASGOW
The Statesville City Council should create an Office of Public Integrity to ensure that city officials act in the public’s interest.
It is quite evident that ethics is gaining prominence in the discourse about governance today. There is a perception that standards in public life are in decline. This raises questions about the costs of misconduct on the part of those who have been entrusted with guarding public interest and resources.
The costs include losses in trust and confidence in public sector institutions and losses in precious resources, which were meant to support the economic and social development of cities and states. There is a movement nationwide to restore a measure of trust and integrity in public sector institutions and officials to safeguard and promote better governance.
The need for an office of public integrity is warranted simply to enhance public confidence in city government by providing a means to address and investigate reports of fraud, corruption, waste, and abuse. The office must have responsibility for the implementation of the City’s Code of Ethics.
Integrity violations include but are not limited to:
• Theft or misappropriation of city resources;
• Falsification of official documents or reports;
• Corruption or official misconduct, including misuse of city information, conflicts of interest, or offering or accepting bribes;
• Personal use of city-owned vehicles, equipment, or supplies;
• Conducting personal business on city time;
• Violations of city procurement policy or contract fraud;
• Tampering with government records; and
• Obstructing, retaliating against, or tampering with a public servant
The Office of Public Integrity would have the authority to identify and investigate concerns in all departments and agencies under the jurisdiction of the mayor as well as any individuals or companies doing business with or seeking to do business with the City of Statesville. The OPI would conduct preliminary inquiries or criminal investigations when and where appropriate, in conjunction with federal, state, and local enforcement agencies.
An Audit Unit of the Office of Public Integrity examines controls, compliance, and the implementation of all city offices and programs. This unit will regularly consult with management/staff to enhance and strengthen program performance. In addition to making every effort to maintain and, if possible, strengthen the reliability and efficiency of all city offices and employees. Conversely, this unit will also concentrate on what is working and what is not, and on finding opportunities to improve effectiveness by way of innovation and creativity.
Under the direction of an appointed director appointed by the mayor and/or city council, the Office of Public Integrity shall seek to enhance public confidence in City government by providing a means to address and investigate reports of fraud, corruption, waste, and abuse.
There is a growing national consensus that a strong government ethics program can make a significant contribution to political, economic, and social development. And there is increasingly a recognition that a democratic society and a functioning free market do better when government is able to deal effectively with corruption and misconduct of public officials across many fronts.
Dr. Joseph Glasgow is a candidate for Statesville mayor.