At its December 9, 2022, meeting, the ICMA Executive Board voted to approve the following ethics recommendation from the ICMA Committee on Professional Conduct (CPC) after a thorough review process.
Joshua Ray, city manager, Jacksonville, North Carolina, was publicly censured for conduct that violated Tenet 3 of the Code of Ethics. The board also voted to revoke Ray’s status as an ICMA Credentialed Manager. Ray accepted an offer by the Signal Mountain, Tennessee, governing body to serve as its town manager. He and the mayor signed an employment agreement, authorized by the governing body, on April 29, 2022, with a June 1 start date. On May 5, Ray wrote a letter to the Manchester, Tennessee, mayor expressing his interest in employment there. When the Signal Mountain officials learned of the outreach and contacted Ray, he withdrew his commitment.
Upon reviewing all of the relevant documents, the board determined that Ray had an ethical obligation to report for the position in Signal Mountain. He had entered into a valid employment agreement with the local government. The governing body did not make any changes to the terms or conditions of employment. The board noted Ray acknowledged he should not have sent the letter of interest to the Manchester mayor and that the Signal Mountain governing body did not have doubts about its decision to hire Ray until after he wrote the letter.
The board considered the impact Ray’s conduct had on the Signal Mountain community and organization in causing a delay in the onboarding of a new town manager. In addition, Ray’s conduct in this matter had the potential to undermine public confidence and trust in the local government management profession, especially as a credentialed manager.
Tenet 3 pertains to a member’s ethical obligation to uphold the public trust, demonstrate the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity, and maintain public confidence in his or her position and profession. Tenet 3’s guideline on appointment commitment advises a member that once the member accepts a position, the commitment is considered binding unless the employer makes fundamental changes to the negotiated terms of employment. While a member can consider multiple employment offers or seek several positions, once the member has accepted appointment to a position, the member is expected to report for that position. Before making a commitment to a new professional opportunity, a member has the responsibility to thoroughly evaluate the position, organization, and community to determine whether it will be a good fit both personally and professionally. If there are unresolved issues during the negotiations of an employment agreement or other concerns, the member should either reach a resolution of the issues or withdraw from further negotiations.
Members are encouraged to read the ICMA Code of Ethics and Guidelines. As a member benefit, ICMA provides confidential advice to any members who may be uncertain of their ethical obligation or who need guidance to resolve an ethical dilemma. Contact Martha Perego, managing director of ICMA Member Services and Ethics, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-962-3668. Ethics advice, information, and the ICMA Code of Ethics are available online.
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