The Ethics of Serving

Anyone who provides a service to government - by being elected, appointed, hired, or just volunteering - walks an ethical tightrope. Public service often means altering one's private ways. With some help, such public servants need not fall (see story, page 2).

That help comes in the form of ethical guidelines, rules, and laws - so many, in fact, that they can scare away the civic-minded. Even public workers of the highest integrity may not be sure when they face an apparent conflict of interest or aren't releasing enough information.

Some charge that scrutiny of public servants has become excessive. But the public has a right to know, upfront, about relationships, especially financial, that might affect judgment.

Congress and the states should constantly evaluate disclosure rules to be sure they cover all positions of public trust. Fostering integrity takes hard work, and rules are only one crucial tool. A citizenry that expects the best of public servants is equally crucial.

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