Simpson: Global Ethics Day reminds of conduct standards


Again this year, the Delaware Public Integrity Commission joined in with the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in recognizing Oct. 18 as Global Ethics Day. The Carnegie Council for Ethics established Global Ethics Day in 2014, to catalyze an annual movement to empower ethics through the actions of both individuals and organizations. Last year, PIC embraced this movement and, through an Opinion piece, we took the time to describe who we are and how we undertake our mission pursuant to our statutory authority under Delaware Code.

To briefly recap, the code of conduct outline in this statute establishes the ethical standards that are applicable to all state executive branch employees (rank and file), officers (senior and elected officials) and honorary state officials (appointees to state boards and commissions). The standards apply, also, to all local governments, unless they adopt their own code of conducts, which the commission must approve as being at least as stringent as the state law. This law has specific meaning to all the employees and officials it covers and imposes consequences for failing to do so.

The Public Integrity Commission does not have jurisdiction over members of the General Assembly nor members of the judiciary. Each of those two branches of state government has their own ethics enforcement mechanism.

This year’s Global Ethics Day theme was “Ethics Empowered.” It was Francis Bacon who first used the phrase, “Knowledge is power.” Thomas Jefferson emphasized the importance of knowledge in correspondence he wrote advocating for the establishment of a state university in Virginia. Jefferson equated knowledge with power, safety and happiness. It is PIC’s view that knowledge of the state’s code of conduct by all covered employees and officials will contribute to a workplace where good government practices will prosper.

To that end, over the past year, the commission has undertaken a project to help inform and educate covered employees and officials as to what is appropriate ethical behavior in state government. PIC staff, in collaboration with an online education vendor, created a customized online training module that addresses what is and what is not acceptable ethical behavior in state government. The module is 40 minutes in length and will be included in the Department of Human Resources’ onboarding process so that new employees are aware of the state code of conduct from their first day of employment. The training module does not replace the more in-depth two-hour training provided in person or via Zoom, which is customized to the needs of each agency.

As chair and on behalf of my fellow commissioners, I want to encourage all covered employees and officials to check out the new training module. Knowledge is indeed power. Here in Delaware, learning more about appropriate ethical behavior is empowering and makes for a much more ethical and transparent workplace for all.

F. Gary Simpson

Chair, Delaware Public Integrity Commission

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