Stronger ethics policies needed, local leaders say in poll


A majority of local officials in Michigan think their peers are mostly ethical, although just less than half would say the same about state legislators.

The University of Michigan surveyed top elected and appointed officials in the state’s 1,856 units of government on ethics issues. The report comes during Sunshine Week, a national media effort to educate the public on the importance of open government.

“While local leaders express less confidence in state officials’ ethics and see a greater need for reform at the state level, they also see room for improvement locally,” said Thomas Ivacko, administrator and program manager of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy.

The poll, part of the Michigan Public Policy Survey series at CLOSUP, reports:

• A majority supports prohibiting outside payments for local officials as well as limiting and disclosing gifts, free travel and food.

• Local leaders support requiring state officials to disclose certain financial interests, yet are less likely to say these policies should also apply to local officials.

• Just more than a quarter of local officials say their jurisdictions have received Freedom of Information Act requests in the last five years related to potential ethics violations, but just 3 percent say they revealed legitimate concerns.

• Almost a third of jurisdictions say they don’t have a formal code of ethics for their personnel.

The study, conducted Oct. 6-Dec. 11, involved surveys sent via hardcopy and the Internet to top elected and appointed officials in all counties, cities, villages and townships in Michigan. A total of 1,356 jurisdictions returned valid surveys, resulting in a 73-percent response rate. The survey had a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points.


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