In Search of Ethics Infrastructure in U.S. Local Governments: Building Blocks or Dead End?
The literature in public administration has advanced various propositions to promote ethical behavior. Local governments have undertaken various efforts in that direction. Those efforts are considered critical for building ethical leadership and culture in the long run. Based on a literature review and use of Social Learning Theory, we identify four building blocks of an ethics infrastructure for public organizations. Employing a comprehensive survey of local governments, this paper shows that displaying awareness and knowledge of ethics, enforcing rules and norms, demonstrating policy support for ethical behavior, and incentivizing the right behaviors are key building blocks of ethics infrastructure that still need improvement in local governments. The reality of ethics infrastructure revealed by the survey is far from the idealism promoted in the literature. We discuss the results and offer some insights and remedies.