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AAC


What about accountability? Without a duty of accountability, the public’s ability to monitor the behavior of public officials would be severely limited. From the duty of accountability comes the duty of transparency and the concepts of disclosure, open meetings, and accessibility of public records. Te courts have ruled “implicit in the democratic process is the notion that government should be accountable for its actions … and individuals must have access to government files….” Tat’s why in Arkansas we have the Freedom of Information Act of 1967 as amended, codified as § 25-19-101 et. seq. Te people’s right to know what its government is doing has been enshrined as a fundamental right in law. Does it sometimes seem


onerous to comply with making records available to Arkansas residents? Yes, it does. But as public officials we must always be transparent and willing to disclose any of our ac- tions and records of those actions, unless it’s some- thing protected by law from disclosure. It takes extra effort but that’s part of public service. Without public trust,


s stewards of the public trust, county govern- ment leaders and employees have a responsibil- ity to act in a manner that is fair and unbiased, that is loyal to the public by putting public interest before personal gain, and that fulfills duties of competency, integrity, accountability, and transparency.


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government doesn’t work. Trust in government is so important that public of- ficials are charged with protecting and maintaining the public trust. As stewards of the public trust, officials have a duty to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. So even if a partic- ular course of conduct does not meet all of the elements nec- essary to constitute a violation of law, it nevertheless may be unethical if it creates even the perception of wrongdoing that will harm the public trust. Te Institute for Local Govern- ment advises public officials to always ask themselves whether it would be a bad thing for a particular course of conduct to be reported on the front page of the local newspaper. Civility and respect toward colleagues and the public also help ensure the public’s trust in the efficiency and effective- ness of government. Rancor and animosity displayed by county officials and quorum court members toward each other causes the public to wonder if private feuds are taking precedence over the common good of the county. When con- stituents are treated with lack of respect, it causes the public to doubt the fairness of their treatment. I fully understand that people have become cynical and suspicious of its government. But what do we expect in a nation where political animus is running rampant? As public servants in the great state of Arkansas we need to do our part to correct that. Public service requires a continual effort to


COUNTY LINES, FALL 2019


SEEMS TO ME ...


overcome cynical attitudes and suspicions about the people in government. We really are here to serve. For the citizenry of your county to retain its trust in gov- ernment, it must have confidence that those in public service are at all times acting in the best interest of the public. As stewards of the public trust, county government leaders and employees have a responsibility to act in a manner that is fair and unbiased, that is loyal to the public by putting public interest before personal gain, and that fulfills duties of com- petency, integrity, accountability, and transparency. In fulfilling these duties you will encounter unavoidable ethical dilemmas. Dilemmas involving fairness; dilemmas in- volving conflicts between personal interests and the public’s interests; dilem- mas involving the faithful execution of your official duties; dilemmas involv- ing acting with integrity; and dilemmas involving accountability. Te life of a great public servant is not easy. Only those that re- ally want to be a servant should enter the field of public service. Public officials have the respon- sibility to uphold the law and serve ethically.


Upholding the law is one thing. You must learn the law.


Don’t blame anyone else for your ignorance if you don’t know the law concerning the duties and operations of your office. It’s there to learn, but it doesn’t jump into your brain on its own. You must apply yourself and study. Secondly, you have a responsibility to apply the law and all


of your public service actions in an ethical manner. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Te ultimate learned ethical behavior is contained in the ancient transla- tion of the Golden Rule. Learning to make ethical choices begins at birth and is a life-long growth process. Ethics are a requirement for deciding on a course of action. Ethical belief systems are established and learned in life through environ- ments of home, school, religion and social gatherings that mold and shape those ethical beliefs. If you are to be ethical the flip side is “Don’t Be Unethical.” What sorts of conduct are commonly considered unethical? Tey include but are not limited to:


• Teft and fraud by public officials. One of the more serious ethical issues in government is theft of public


See “ETHICS” on Page 18 >>> 17


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