What are Ethics and Why are They Important for Local Governments?

Ethics are commonly defined as the rules of conduct that govern how a society
differentiates between good and bad, right and Napkin with ETHICS circled in the middle with branches extending out with ethics related words, sitting next to cup of coffeewrong. In practice, ethics guide individuals in identifying the correct course of action in how decisions are made.

In local government, the role of ethics is significant in maintaining public trust, fairness, and the appearance of fairness in all government action. Many local governments, including Bozeman, have created laws that outline a Code of Ethics that specify the conduct of all government actions, be it employees, elected or appointed officials, to ensure that all dealings are conducted fairly and in an unbiased manner in both appearance and fact. In general, a Code of Ethics, as is the case for Bozeman, is designed to guarantee that procedural requirements are followed so that all government actions are not only fair, but also appear to be fair. The goal of any ethics-related statute and program is to preserve the publics  confidence and trust in government.


City of Bozeman Code of Ethics Handbook - updated May, 2013 (4th edition)


An Ethics Handbook is available for the public, employees, public officials and staff. The handbook was updated in May, 2013 (version 4) to reflect changes made to the code with the passage of Ordinance No. 1856. This update clarified the post employment and conflict of interest provisions and provided information about reporting. In 2012, the code was updated with Ordinance No. 1833 relating to the gift provision and the method for reporting and possible removal of appointed officials who do not complete the required annual ethics training. 

The ethics handbook was produced by the city of Bozeman Board of Ethics in conjunction with the Local Government Center to educate citizens and train employees and public officials in best practices and legal requirements. In addition, the handbook details specific ethical requirements and provides guidance on obtaining information and filing complaints. The city of Bozeman provides legal requirements outlining conduct and best practices as detailed in the Code of Ethics within the Bozeman Municipal Code.

What is the Process to Seek Advice About the City Code of Ethics?


If a city employee or official has a question about a potential ethics issue, impropriety, or violation, depending on the employee's or official's position and the nature of the issue, he/she should consult with his/her supervisor, Human Resources Department, or seek the advice of the City Attorney. Any member of the public may also request a formal or informal City Attorney opinion with respect to the ethical conduct of an employee or official. In some circumstances, the City Attorney may exercise discretion regarding whether to issue such an opinion. 

What is the Board of Ethics and What Are its Responsibilities?


The City Code of Ethics details the responsibilities of a three-member Board of Ethics. The Board is made up of individuals who are residents of the city but not "elected officials of the city, full-time appointed city officials whether exempt or non-exempt, or city employees". Board members are appointed by the City Commission to staggered two year terms and do not receive compensation. The responsibilities of the Board are to:
  • Evaluate all aspects of the City Code of Ethics to ensure the public and all public servants have a reasonable opportunity and are encouraged to participate;
  • Develop a plan to educate public servants about their rights, duties and responsibilities;
  • Submit an annual report of summary decisions, opinions and recommended actions regarding ethical practices or policies;
  • Arrange for an annual workshop or training program for all employees and board members; and
  • Conduct hearings as needed.

The Board does not have authority to reverse or modify a prior action of the Mayor, governing body or an officer or employee of the City but may refer a matter to the City Attorney for review and consideration for appropriate action. The Board was created to ensure the public and all public servants have a reasonable opportunity and are encouraged to participate in any process for regularly evaluating the City Code of Ethics.

     When does the Board of Ethics meet?

The Board of Ethics is currently meeting as needed. The next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, May 24th at 4:30 PM in the Madison Room of City Hall. Check the advisory board calendar for the current schedule or call Erika in the City Manager's office at 406-582-2306. MEETINGS ARE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Anyone is welcome to sit in on the meeting and speak during public comment about any issue that is within the jurisdiction of the ethics board or about something on the agenda. Agendas are posted at least 72 hours prior to the meeting. Minutes and audio of the meetings are also available.
 

     Who are the members of the Board of Ethics?

            Learn more about board members - biographies available by clicking their name. 

The City Manager's office and Greg Sullivan, City Attorney act as staff liaisons for the board. The Board of Ethics does not have a City Commission liaison.              

Additional Links / Reports / Forms

Board of Ethics Annual Reports      

Relevant Documents

Additional Resources

Training Resources

Hands shaking with swirly design in the middle