The length of service guideline under Tenet 3 of the ICMA Code of Ethics advises chief administrative/executive officers appointed by a governing body or elected official that a minimum of two years with an organization is considered necessary in order to render a professional service. Given the significant investment organizations make in time and money to recruit new staff and the time it takes even the most talented individual to make a real contribution, a commitment of two years is both reasonable and professional.  Exceptions to the two-year tenure include significant personal issues; a significant change in the terms or conditions of employment; a vote of no confidence; or when a shorter length of tenure has been negotiated in advance in writing between the manager and a member in transition, assistant or department head.  The two-year tenure does not apply to promotions unless the individual otherwise made a commitment to remain with the organization. 

Tenet 3.  Demonstrate by word and action the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity in all public, professional, and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the trust and respect of the elected and appointed officials, employees, and the public.

Guideline on Length of Service. For chief administrative/executive officers appointed by a governing body or elected official, a minimum of two years is considered necessary to render a professional service to the local government.  In limited circumstances, it may be in the best interests of the local government and the member to separate before serving two years. Some examples include refusal of the appointing authority to honor commitments concerning conditions of employment, a vote of no confidence in the member, or significant personal issues. It is the responsibility of an applicant for a position to understand conditions of employment, including expectations of service. Not understanding the terms of employment prior to accepting does not justify premature separation. For all members a short tenure should be the exception rather than a recurring experience, and members are expected to honor all conditions of employment with the organization.

Responsibility to carefully and thoroughly investigate a position and community before accepting an offer rests with the member. Inadequately evaluating the politics of the community; financial stability of the organization; housing costs; commute; availability of employment for one’s spouse; quality of schools; and other environmental challenges prior to accepting a position does not justify early departure. As part of the due diligence process in evaluating whether an organization and community is a good fit personally and professionally, members are encouraged to reach out to colleagues in the area and ICMA Senior Advisors who may have valuable insight to share.  

Ethical scenarios from PM’s Ethics Matter!

Professional Fouls: As Serious as Illegal Conduct? (2011)

Challenging Career Decisions (2008)