Employees’ ethics education compliance reaches all-time high while complaints remain stable

Compliance with the City’s ethical practices training requirement has reached an all-time high while ethics violation complaints have remained relatively stable, according to the recently released 2011 annual report of the Ethical Practices Board.

The report notes that, as of Dec. 11, 2011, 94 percent of the City’s regular employees and 75 percent of the City’s seasonal and temporary employees had attended ethics code training on issues related to conflicts of interest, gifts, use of City property, outside employment, etc. The 2011 compliance rate represent the highest level of compliance since the ethics code was adopted.

This year’s annual report also notes that a total of 26 complaints alleging ethics code violations were reported in 2011, compared to 24 complaints in 2010.

Because some of the 26 complaints had more than one allegation, the total number of allegations in 2011 reached 32. The largest number of complaints (seven) had to do with improper use of City property or time; the next largest number of complaints (four) related to information disclosure. The remaining complaints were spread among other topics such as fiduciary duty, conflict of interest, outside employment, etc.

Every complaint is investigated; however, who investigates the complaint depends on the nature of complaint. The Ethics Code requires the Ethics Officer to forward the matter to the appropriate authorities for investigation. Usually this means the department head and employee’s supervisor; however, complaints will occasionally be investigated by others based on the type of complaint. For example, Respect in the Workplace complaints are investigated by Human Resources, allegations of fraud are investigated by Internal Audit, and allegations that may constitute criminal activity are referred to the Police Department.

Here are the outcomes of the allegations investigated in 2011:

In addition to investigating complaints, the City’s Ethics Officer answered 181 ethics-related inquiries in 2011. While that total is down from the 192 inquires made in 2010, the top categories of inquiries — gifts and conflict of interest — remained unchanged from 2010 to 2011.

Because the City’s ethics code recognizes that inappropriate or illegal actions taint good employees by association and reduce our ability to accomplish our mission, there are several ways that employees can report a concern or wrongdoing. Options include:

For more information about this process, visit CityTalk’s Report a Problem or Concern link.

To view the 2011 annual report, visit the Ethical Practices Board website.

Published Feb. 29, 2012