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Ethics in City Hall: Discussion and Analysis for Public Administration

Author(s): William N. Thompson, PhD, Professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada
James E. Leidlein, MPA, City Manager, City of Harper Woods, Harper Woods, Michigan
  • ISBN-13: 9780763755324
  • Paperback    175 pages      © 2009
Price: $95.95 US List
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Students need to be exposed to real life events that they will be confronted with as public managers. This book contains twenty-one in-depth case studies that describe and discuss actual events that presented ethical and other challenges in public management. Each case study is a true account of an event that took place in a village, town, township, or city with a population between 10,000 and 40,000 over the past 30 years. This text encourages the reader to analyze the situations and behaviors presented, then reflect on how to deal with the circumstances. It will assist instructors and students in applying principles of ethical behavior to actual ethical challenges faced by public administrators. This useful text also includes discussion questions and analyses to test students' knowledge and critical thinking.

Now available as a bundle with The Ethics Primer for Public Administrators in Government and Nonprofit Organizations by James Svara! 

The Ethics Primer for Public Administrators in Government and Nonprofit Organizations introduces the reader to the fundamentals of administrative responsibility and ethics, explains why ethics are important to administrators in governmental and non-profit organizations, and identifies ways to link ethics and management in order to strengthen the ethical climate in a public organization.

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Features & Benefits

The themes presented in this book revolve around issues that often appear at the doorstep unannounced. A local government official can arrive at city hall expecting the ordinary, only to receive a knock on the door. When he or she opens the door there is a brush fire that could lead to a forest fire.  The focus of each case is an ethical dilemma. 

Applicable Courses

Appropriate for a course in Ethics in Political Science or Public Administration. Also can be used as a supplement in any Public Personnel Management course or general courses on state and local government. 

CHAPTER 1. The Great Society Gift Horse

Discusses the quandary between violating federal hiring rules and employing a questionable person.  Examines competing values: safety of children or abiding by the letter of the law.

CHAPTER 2. Gotta Love Those Bread and Butter Unions

Presents the dilemma created when marginally performing police officers support a candidate for mayor who wins the election.  Is the mayor beholden to his supporters’ desires even when their police union is concerned about other matters? 

CHAPTER 3. Trust Your Gut or Go With the Flow?

Evaluates the hiring of a poor performing police chief. He was hired under a well intentioned but flawed selection process, and against the intuition of the manager.

CHAPTER 4. Oh the Tangled Web We Weave

Relates an unfolding drama of a city manager who falsified his credentials when he applied for the position seventeen years ago.  Is or should there be a statute of limitations on such matters?

CHAPTER 5. To Tell the Truth

Reviews the saga of an incompetent and dishonest community development director.

Should a subordinate be willing to “blow the whistle” when a politically motivated governor gives him a call? 

CHAPTER 6. Dirty Job. Hire a New Person to Do It

Demonstrates how something as simple as setting up a telephone hot line for a large public works project can become extremely burdensome for a new employee.  Is it fair to dump the job no one wants on the new person?

CHAPTER 7. A Time for Action, A Time for Reflection

Discusses the problem of a police officer who is also a “hero” volunteer fire fighter.  Does his good judgment in one area make up for bad decisions at other times?

CHAPTER 8. A Deadly Deed

A city and its manager are forced to deal with a situation where one of the city public utility employee runs afoul with the law. Is a municipality ethically responsible for emotional behavior of its employees?

CHAPTER 9. Punishment to Fit Crimes; But Keep it Quiet

Presents a case of blatant plagiarism by a personnel director while pursuing a graduate degree.  Does such behavior disqualify one for holding a position overseeing ethics of others?

CHAPTER 10. Boss, We’ve Got a Problem

Reviews the challenges faced by a city when it learns that its popular police youth officer has a hidden secret.  Is it appropriate to keep the investigation from the governing body?

CHAPTER 11. Sometimes It Is Tough to Explain

Discusses difficulty faced in dealing with a malingering incompetent police officer who refuses to work.

CHAPTER 12. Building Inspector

How to handle an aging, incompetent building inspector whose lack of code enforcement caused problems for the community, and how to hire a replacement that seems just too good to be true?

CHAPTER 13. Loose Lips Sink Ships

Evaluates a rivalry between two high ranking police officers, and why it is so important that confidential investigations not become part of conversations at the “office party.”

CHAPTER 14. Peter, Paul and Mary: Ethical Quandaries or Managerial Issues

Discusses the application of the “Peter Principle” and considerations of competence in local government politics.

CHAPTER 15. Elected Officials At Work and/or Play

Addresses three situations where a township manager faces three separate incidences of elected officials patronizing the world’s oldest profession. Are or should elected officials be held accountable for their moral behavior? Is there a different standard for appointed officials?

CHAPTER 16. The Tax is Illegal – Getting the Story Out

Discusses how a township addresses a near thirty-year tax levy and collection that was violative of state law.  How do you say “sorry” to all the taxpayers?

CHAPTER 17. Betty to the Rescue

Evaluates how a high-ranking elected official copes with a patronage appointee who turns out to be lazy, incompetent and a drug user.

CHAPTER 18. Not Following the Letter of the Law is Best Sometimes

Discusses the demands of a major taxpayer to have their property assessment significantly reduced.  Is a plea that the company may have to close its doors viable at tax assessing time?

CHAPTER 19. Because of Good Intergovernmental Relations Some Things Could Be Buried Quickly    

Evaluates how good intentions regarding the  purchase of property for a cemetery by township officials can go awry, and how good relations with fellow governments can help hide some unethical activity.

CHAPTER 20: The Rarest of the Rare

Explores the trials and tribulations of a community and its local government dealing with an employee and his family whose ten year old daughter is dying from an incurable disease.

CHAPTER 21. Hire the Hardcore Unemployed

When you hire someone you may have them for a very long time.  Shows the downside of the CETA program that funded hiring the hardcore unemployed. 


William N. Thompson, PhD-Professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada

William N. Thompson is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  He was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and attended Michigan State University and the University of Missouri at Columbia, receiving a Ph.D.(Political Science) from the latter in 1972.  He has taught Political Science and Public Administration courses at Southeast Missouri State, Western Michigan University, Troy State University (Europe), and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  He served as a research associate with the National Association of Attorneys General, a research advisor of Pension and Welfare Benefits in the United States Department of Labor, and as the elected supervisor of Kalamazoo Charter Township, Michigan.  His research interests have focused upon many public policy questions with an emphasis on policy and the gambling industry.  His books include Gambling in America: An Encyclopedia, Legalized Gambling: A Reference Handbook, and Native American Issues: A Reference Handbook, and The Last Resort: Success and Failure in Campaigns for Casinos (with John Dombrink).  His articles have appeared in many academic, professional, and trade journals, including Public Integrity, Gaming Law Review, and Casino Lawyer.  His commentaries on gambling issues have been quoted by national media such as New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, and he has appeared on the Today Show, Cross-fire, the O’Reilly Factor, and Marketplace.

James E. Leidlein, MPA-City Manager, City of Harper Woods, Harper Woods, Michigan

James Leidlein has been a city manager in Michigan for over thirty years. He was also employed as a labor economist with the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. He earned an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Western Michigan University and a graduate degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California. He has been an adjunct faculty member in the Political Science Department at Wayne State University in Detroit for twenty years. He has taught introductory courses in American Government and Public Administration and graduate classes in Labor Relations and Administrative Ethics. He has been published in Public Administration Review, Public Integrity and is cited in Public Personnel Management and Berkley and Rouse’s The Craft of Public Administration. He is also a member of the Michigan Local Government Management Association's Ethics Committee. He resides with his wife, Kathleen, in Harper Woods, Michigan.