Ethics in government: Michigan and DC
In some job interviews, I've been asked questions about how to handle policy disagreements, when the decision that was made is not what you preferred. My response was, there is a difference between policy disagreements and unethical behavior, that I'd toe the line understanding within the executive branch that you're constrained by the decisions of the people in charge, but that in terms of doing something wrong or unethical, I wouldn't keep quiet.
This was an issue studied by Albert O. Hirschman in the book Exit, Voice or Loyalty and how people would react when faced with such a situation--would they stay, leave, or stay and speak out?
1. This comes up in Michigan as a number of state government agency officials have been charged with crimes in association with their misfeasance and lawbreaking over the Flint water quality issues ("A look at the nine people facing charges in Flint's water crisis," Flint Journal), which were produced by the state and the local government when they changed the city's water source without treating the water with an appropriate mix of chemicals, unlike their previous provider (the Detroit water system).
Interestingly, with regard to the legal charges, it "helps" that in Michigan the Attorney General position is separately elected, although both the Governor, Rick Snyder, and the AG, Bill Schuette, are Republicans. That's unusual.
2. DC. Irrespective of the "pay for access" issue (e.g., "Bowser's $9000 in Trump change," Washington Post), it comes up with Councilmember Vincent Orange, who lost his bid for re-election, and in the interim, has been chosen to be President of the DC Chamber of Commerce, the city's trade and lobbying organization for the business community. Mr. Orange intends to hold both jobs until he leaves office in January 2017 ("Vincent Orange on being the new D.C. Chamber CEO, conflicts of interest and his platform," Washington Business Journal.
DC law treats the Councilmember job as "part-time" even though typically a Councilmember works more than 40 hours per week and is compensated at the rate of not quite $135,000 per year.
Councilmember Orange is within the bounds of the law to take on another part-time job, as many other Councilmembers do, often for law firms, lobbying firms, or businesses doing work on government contracts.
It would be great if the outcry about this would lead to a change in the DC law so that outside employment would be disallowed.
I don't seem to be hearing that being suggested.
The Washington Business Journal editorializes, "Taking Inventory: Vincent Orange must resign now," that Mr. Orange should either resign his Councilmember upon taking the DC Chamber job, or defer his ascension to the position until his Council term ends.
The Post hasn't yet weighed in, although they did editorialize against the Prince George's County Council's proposed end-around term limits, by creating at-large positions that termed-out Councilmembers can run for ("A jobs plan for Prince George’s County council members").