What Matters Most In Public Administration: Ethics Or Loyalty?

By Joaquin Gonzales, Mayor George Christopher Professor of Public Administration at the Ageno School of Business of Golden Gate University

Loyalty in business is to the owner(s) of the company. Loyalty in government is to the U.S. Constitution and the American people. President Trump wanted the former when he invited the then FBI Director James Comey to the White House for a one-on-one dinner. Comey gave him the latter.

At Golden Gate University, we think that the most important duty of a public official is to be an ethical public servant. Unlike other universities that make ethics the last course in a Public Administration degree program, we put it first.

Almost all cities, states, and federal agencies make employees take an ethics training course prior to assuming office – just as it is mandatory for non-government employees to take sexual harassment training. At the training, public servants learn that loyalty in business is different from loyalty in government. For instance, at a restaurant or hotel, tipping is accepted for good service. At City Hall, you are not allowed to receive a tip for good service. In government, as a public servant you and your family are not supposed to bid for business contracts in the agency where you work. Whistleblowers are encouraged and protected by the law. If members of the public witness abuse of power or authority, it is their civic duty to report it.

From Trumps’ behavior, according to Comey’s testimony, President Trump and his team should have been given a public ethics training course!

Unlike other universities that make ethics the last course in a Public Administration degree program, we put it first.

When I was serving as commissioner for the City and County of San Francisco, I — along with my fellow public servants  had to sit down and participate in an ethics training class held by the City Attorney’s office. Corruption and ethical accountability is a key topic of discussion in GGU’s Executive Master of Public Administration classes, because the temptation to abuse power and steal from the public purse are great. Therefore, everyone from citizens to public employees should know the rules and be vigilant.

We had to attend ethics training every year as a public official or face consequences from the City’s Ethics Commission. As in my case, Trump is answerable to a number of government bodies, including the Congress and the Judiciary as co-equal bodies that checks and balances presidential power. That’s good because it shows the respect of the Constitution is alive and well somewhere.

For more about this issue, please see my recent interview: “BA’s Political Commentator on James Comey Testimony,” The Filipino Channel (TFC), ABS-CBN News, and KTSF Channel 26.


About Joaquin Jay Gonzalez

About Joaquin Jay Gonzalez III, PhD, is Mayor George Christopher Professor of Public Administration at the Ageno School of Business of Golden Gate University, San Francisco, California. He has taught at the University of San Francisco, the National University of Singapore, and De La Salle University (Manila). He was Commissioner for Immigrant Rights for the City and County of San Francisco for close to a decade and has worked for the World Bank (Washington, DC) and the Institute On Governance (Canada). Jay is the author of more than a dozen books including Corruption and American Cities: Essays and Case Studies in Ethical Accountability.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s