Dear CAAO Members:

My entire career has been working in municipal government in which both of my employers had a Code of Ethics and an Ethics Committee, Ethics Board, or Ethics Commission, that would entertain complaints.

During those same years, I have seen assessors, or assessment staff members, receive disciplinary actions, up to and including terminations, for having violated their municipal Code of Ethics, their local Policies and Procedures Manual, or their Union Contract.  There were instances of individuals whom I respected, that I believe had a pure heart, but did something in which they never considered how it could be perceived by others.

For example, you should never accept a gift from someone who stands to gain from your position yet someone accepts a gift because they know in their heart that they will never provide any favors/benefits/advantage to the gift giver.  However, the public perception may be that accepting the gift at all was unethical.

It is important to gauge your actions with this simple three pronged test:

  • Do I think this action would be unethical on my part?
  • Do I think my employer would view my action as unethical?
  • Do I think the general public would view my action as unethical?

The best way to avoid any issues is to avoid not only what you easily know to be unethical, but to avoid even the slightest perception of something someone else may perceive as ethically questionable.

It is also imperative to know what expectations have been placed on you and review those at least once every two years.  You should review your municipality’s

  • Code of Ethics (if applicable)
  • Policy & Procedures Manual
  • Union Contract (if applicable).
  • CAAO Code of Ethics
  • IAAO Code of Ethics (if applicable)

State employees are required to take annual Ethics Training and you should also be aware of ANY requirements your employer may have for mandatory training (i.e. ethics, sexual harassment, etc.)

Lastly, when in doubt?  Ask for help.

The CAAO Ethics Committee is here to assist you if you have questions or concerns.

John Chaponis

CAAO Ethics Chairman



171 – IAAO Standards of Professional Practice and Ethics (online course free to members of IAAO)

Principles of Ethical Conduct for Government Officers and Employees