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News & Press: ICMA

Study shows council-manager form of government to be more ethical

Tuesday, October 1, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matt Lail
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Local government is, by its nature and its structure, an industry designed about ethics. By the sheer nature of the transparency of public policy and government, local government is designed to focus on ethics.

As an organization, the N.C. City & County Management Association (NCCCMA) puts great emphasis on ethics. That will never change. Sometimes it needs reinforcing – particularly as the mayor/council form of government sometimes gets touted as preferential to the council/manager form of government.

A recent article by Kim Nelson and Whitney Alfonso shows the value that the council/manager form of government brings. Nelson and Alfonso recently published the results of a study; their results were published in the July-August 2019 edition of Public Administration Review. In this study, they tested a number of hypotheses, the primary one being a comparative analysis of whether the form of government matters when it comes to municipal corruption. Their conclusion is that “The council-manager form of government is … 57 percent less likely than the mayor-council form to have an instance of corruption.”

As Jerry Newfarmer writes at ICMA.org, Nelson and Alfonso “tested the notion that a governance structure with a directly elected mayor is more likely to have more corruption than one in which the mayor is selected by fellow councilmembers. However, the results show that not to be the case. Indeed, communities with a directly elected mayor are 49% less likely to have corruption! 

“The study tested four other hypotheses with mixed results,” Newfarmer continues. “And as with many studies like this, the authors identify some follow-up questions, the biggest of which must be ‘why?’

“Well, as a career professional manager, I like to think that I know the answer to that. The partnership between the ethically bound professional manager and elected officials is an effective check on corruption. Validation is a lovely thing.”

To read more, click here.