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Santa Clara County, CA June 6, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

It's Time for an Annual Independent Ethics and Standards Review for the District Attorney's Office

By Jim Shore

Candidate for District Attorney; County of Santa Clara

This information is provided by the candidate
Jim Shore will convene a panel of outside experts to perform an independent ethics and standards review and release the report to the public.
As allegations of ethical misconduct by public officials continue to mount, public trust in government is failing. Nowhere is the public trust more important than in law enforcement. In Santa Clara County, news reports, rumors, and decisions made behind closed doors are fueling an uneasy perception that politics is getting in the way of our duty to seek justice and protect the public.

Jim Shore is running for Santa Clara County District Attorney to ensure the DA's office stays focused on safety and justice -- not headlines and politics.

Opening the Doors to Honest Government

Jim knows it is not enough to assume that our leaders are implementing or even acknowledging the high ethical standards that the public demands and deserves. He believes the District Attorney has a duty to let the public know that the office has the highest standards and that it is following them. "Trust me" is simply not an acceptable response to public inquiries or concerns.

And Jim Shore understands the best way to restore and maintain the public's confidence is to come out from behind closed doors and ask the question publicly: "Are we playing by the rules?"

That's why Jim will convene a panel of outside experts to perform an independent ethics and standards review and release the report to the public.

An Independent Ethics and Standards Review for the District Attorney's Office

As one of his first acts in public office, Jim Shore will recruit an outside panel -- drawn from the best legal and ethics experts including retired judges, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors from other jurisdictions, members of law enforcement, as well as members of academia -- to conduct an independent review that will:

  • Assess what ethics standards, policies, rules and laws are currently in place, and to what extent the office is in compliance;

  • Consider and recommend changes and additions to existing standards, policies, rules and laws, including best practices in place in other jurisdictions;

  • Consider and recommend additional actions to ensure the office is meeting the highest ethical standards, such as conducting regular ethics reviews, improving public outreach and education, or establishing a complaints process that is fair and accessible.

Jim will make the panel's report public. He will also instruct every person in the office to participate fully and share his or her unvarnished opinions with the panel.

Strengthening the Ethical Climate: Best Practices

The independent ethics and standards review will not only inform the public, but also foster an open and ongoing dialogue among staff in the office, strengthening the ethical climate and leading to other benefits for the office. There are many best practices in other jurisdictions that can be instructive.

For example, an ethics audit of the entire City of Austin, Texas government found that strengthening the ethical climate in all city departments would lead to financial and administrative benefits, including: a lower number and cost of successful legal claims, lower turnover and sick leave usage, fewer lost-time injuries, fewer customer complaints, and higher quality service delivery. (1)

The City of Atlanta, Georgia, created an Ethics Office in 2003 "to assure that the city enjoys the full credit and trust of its citizens as a government that truly conducts itself in an ethical manner." The Atlanta plan chronicles a number of specific actions that are working to promote a "culture of ethics" in that city, including increased education and training of employees and elected officials, outreach and training programs for members of the public who interface with the city government, an ethics hotline, a system to receive and deal with citizen and employee complaints, and preparing and issuing a public, annual report on the state of ethics in the city. (2)

As part of the modernization of the Canadian Public Service, Canada's Office of Public Service Values and Ethics analyzed organizational models used by various countries to strengthen the ethical conduct of public office holders and government employees. The report outlined best practice models of ethics infrastructures that generally include a statement of values and principles, standards of conduct, tools to promote and raise awareness of values, control of wrongdoing, and management and evaluation of values and management programs. (3)

Keeping Our Focus on Safety and Justice

Our highest priorities in law enforcement must be public safety and the pursuit of justice. But we cannot do our job well without the public's trust. That's why Jim Shore will insist -- and verify publicly -- that the District Attorney's office operates under the highest ethical standards.


(1) Citywide Ethics Audit Report, November 2002, Office of the Austin, Texas City Auditor

(2) Report by City of Atlanta Ethics Officer on First Two Years of Operation

(3) Ethics Infrastructure in Public Administrations

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