Who Are the Keepers of the Code? Articulating and Upholding Ethical Standards in the Field of Public Administration

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Abstract

Establishing a code of ethics has been a challenge in public administration. Ethics is central to the practice of administration, but the broad field of public administration has had difficulty articulating clear and meaningful standards of behavior and developing a means of upholding a code of ethics. Although a number of specialized professional associations in public service adopted codes, starting with the International City/County Management Association in 1924 and others after 1960, the full range of public administrators did not have an association to represent them until the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) was founded in 1939. Despite early calls for a code of ethics in ASPA, the first code was adopted in 1984, with revisions in 1994, but neither code had a process for enforcement. A new code approved in 2013 builds on the earlier codes and increases the prospects for ASPA to work with other professional associations to broaden awareness of the ethical responsibilities to society of all public administrators.

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