There is a work, written in verse in the early 14th century by an English monk and poet named Robert Mannyng, called Handlyng Synne. Its purpose, as explained in the Prologue, is to help unlearned men understand when, in their day-to-day lives, they may be unwittingly committing some form of one of the seven sins (Pride, Envy, Greed, Wrath, Gluttony, Lust, and Sloth). The Hofstra Law students' recommendations relating to Hudson's code of ethics brought this medieval work to mind.
The first thing they recommended was that the ethics code be part of the city charter, and that it include a long list of examples what was expected of city officials and what constituted unethical behavior. (That's the Handlyng Synne connection.) Not only is our current ethics code unclear about what constitutes unethical behavior, it is also silent on the penalties for violating the code of ethics. The Hofstra Law students recommended that the code of ethics also define the consequences--anything from being required to make a public apology to being removed from office.
They also discussed conflict of interest and pointed out the lack of guidance in the code on what to do if someone has a conflict of interest. They reported that the model codes they looked at had very detailed provisions relating to conflict of interest. Eric Lane, the dean of Hofstra Law School, expressed the opinion that no alderman should have to recuse him/herself for a conflict of interest "because then a district is not represented" in a vote. When Common Council president Don Moore pointed out that, in a small community like Hudson, elected officials are often also on the boards of not-for-profits, Lane responded, "Private interest should not limit your capacity to vote. . . , so get off those boards."
The Hofstra Law students' other recommendations included a city meeting to inform everyone about ethics issues, establishing a Board of Ethics for Hudson (the city now relies on the Columbia County Board of Ethics), and mandatory ethics training for all elected and appointed officials and for city employees.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CAROLE OSTERINK
The illustration accompanying this post is an engraving by Pieter Bruegel the Elder from his series The Seven Deadly Sins