Voting on Tenet 12: The Process and What To Expect

ARTICLE | Jan 23, 2015

ICMA Full Corporate members have a unique opportunity and responsibility this March to vote on proposed new language for Tenet 12 of the ICMA Code of Ethics. Following a comprehensive review of Tenet 12, the ICMA Executive Board supported the recommendation of the Committee on Professional Conduct (CPC) to present the proposed language to the membership for consideration. The ICMA Constitution states that changes to the tenets of the Code must be approved by a majority of those eligible members who vote. Changes to the guidelines are approved by the ICMA Executive Board.

The Code of Ethics Review Process

As the ICMA Code of Ethics approached its 90th anniversary, the CPC felt that a comprehensive annual review of the Code was warranted to ensure that the Code remained relevant and aligned with the local government management profession as it evolved. The CPC is responsible for prioritizing key tenets, guidelines, and issues for review. In early 2013, the ICMA Executive Board approved the CPC's proposal to implement this formal review process. The CPC will select one tenet and its associated guidelines per year and make necessary changes based on input received from the membership.

The CPC launched its efforts in February 2013 with a comprehensive review of Tenet 7. Approved by the executive board that September, the CPC retained the existing tenet language, refreshed the language of existing guidelines, and added a guideline on personal advocacy on issues. 

The CPC continued the review process by selecting Tenet 12 (“Seek no favor”). The CPC focused on Tenet 12 because it covers a broad range of common issues – gifts, conflicts of interest, personal relationships, use of confidential information, outside employment, and endorsements – that local government professionals regularly encounter and can be complicated to address. These issues draw many requests for ethics advice. Also, no major review or revision of Tenet 12 and its guidelines had been conducted since being incorporated into the Code in 1972.

Tenet 12 Review Process and Outcome

The CPC initiated the Tenet 12 review in early 2014 by offering members numerous opportunities to provide their feedback. Over 160 members used an online discussion board to provide comments on the tenet and guidelines. Additional feedback was obtained during the U.S. regional summits and various state association meetings. The Emerging Local Government Leaders also provided its members with an opportunity to comment through its social media platform.

Members commented that the tenet language was outdated and used antiquated words. That feedback led the CPC to draft and present two options for new tenet language to the membership through an online survey this past summer. The survey also sought input on the related guidelines. More than 1,200 members responded to the survey and provided comments. The CPC carefully reviewed the input and arrived at a recommendation for the executive board.

At its meeting this past November, the executive board approved the CPC’s recommendation to place the proposed new Tenet 12 language before the membership for consideration. In March, eligible members will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to replace the current language of Tenet 12 with the proposed language.

The current and proposed Tenet 12 language read as follows:    

Current: Seek no favor; believe that personal aggrandizement or profit secured by confidential                            information or by misuse of public time is dishonest.

Proposed: Public office is a public trust. A member shall not leverage his or her position for                                 personal gain or benefit.

Voting on Tenet 12

Eligible members who have an e-mail address on file with ICMA will receive notice on March 2 that voting has opened. Those members who do not have an e-mail address on file will receive a paper ballot. Voting must be completed by April 2, 2015. Based on the outcome of the vote, the CPC will determine if it is appropriate to present changes to the guidelines to the executive board in June.


Contact Jared Dailey, program manager, Ethics and Form of Government, at 202-962-3557 or

Want to add a comment?

Login to your account or Create a free account to leave a comment and get access to more features.



You may also be interested in