ICMA Code of Ethics 95 years

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Adopted in 1924, the ICMA Code of Ethics defined the principles that today serve as the foundation for the local government management profession and set the standard for excellence. Leadership in a management structure committed to equity, transparency, integrity, stewardship of public resources, political neutrality, and respect for the rights and responsibility of elected officials and residents strengthens democratic local governance.

ICMA members pledge to uphold these principles in their conduct and decisions in order to merit the trust of the public, elected officials, and staff they serve. As a condition of membership, ICMA members agree to submit to a peer-to-peer review under established enforcement procedures should there be an allegation of unethical conduct. Members who are working for a local government in any capacity are required to follow all 12 Tenets of the Code. Members who are students, elected officials, fully retired, working for a state or federal agency, or in the private sector are required to follow Tenets 1 and 3.

ICMA's Code of Ethics includes Guidelines, adopted by the ICMA Executive Board in 1972, to assist members in applying the principles outlined in the Code. The Tenets and Guidelines were most recently amended in June 2020.  ICMA encourages individuals seeking confidential advice on issues of ethics or who wish to file an official complaint to contact Martha Perego, director of Member Services and Ethics, at mperego@icma.org or 202-962-3668 or  Jessica Cowles, ethics advisor, at jcowles@icma.org or 202-962-3513. 

The mission of ICMA is to create excellence in local governance by developing and fostering professional local government management worldwide. To further this mission, certain principles, as enforced by the Rules of Procedure, shall govern the conduct of every member of ICMA, who shall:

Tenet 1

We believe professional management is essential to efficient and democratic local government by elected officials.

Tenet 2

Affirm the dignity and worth of local government services and maintain a deep sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant.

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.

Tenet 4

Serve the best interests of the people.

Tenet 5

Submit policy proposals to elected officials; provide them with facts, and technical and professional advice about policy options; and collaborate with them in setting goals for the community and organization.

Tenet 6

Recognize that elected representatives are accountable to their community for the decisions they make; members are responsible for implementing those decisions.

Tenet 7

Refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional administrators. Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing legislative body.

Tenet 8

Make it a duty continually to improve the member's professional ability and to develop the competence of associates in the use of management techniques.

Tenet 9

Keep the community informed on local government affairs; encourage communication between the citizens and all local government officers; emphasize friendly and courteous service to the public; and seek to improve the quality and image of public service.

Tenet 10

Resist any encroachment on professional responsibilities, believing the member should be free to carry out official policies without interference, and handle each problem without discrimination on the basis of principle and justice.

Tenet 11

Handle all matters of personnel on the basis of merit so that fairness and impartiality govern a member's decisions, pertaining to appointments, pay adjustments, promotions, and discipline.

Tenet 12

Public office is a public trust. A member shall not leverage his or her position for personal gain or benefit.

by ICMA Task Force on "Resources for the Interim or Acting Manager"

When the local government manager's position becomes vacant, someone is bound to be tapped to serve in an "acting" or interim capacity. Often the acting manager is selected from within the organization, and he or she is suddenly faced with an unfamiliar set of roles, responsibilities, and expectations. The 2016 ICMA Task Force on Serving as an Interim or Acting Manager updated and expanded the original guide, developed to assist the interim manager make the most of a sometimes unexpected opportunity.

In Resources for the Interim or Acting Manager, you'll learn how to: 

  • Decide if the interim manager role is right for you.
  • Put into writing the terms of agreement for the position.
  • Conduct an assessment of the community and the organization and succeed through your interim position (60-day checklist).
  • Define your role as (interim) manager.
  • Be the interim manager during the search process. 
  • Garner the support of colleagues and staff for success.
  • And more!

Updated fall 2017

This e-book offers a variety of techniques and strategies to maximize the likelihood of establishing and maintaining an effective working relationship with your governing board.

Highlights include:

  • Why getting the relationships right from the start is so important.
  • How to achieve clarity of roles, desired outcomes, and policy development.
  • Steps to establish mutual respect with elected leaders.
  • Why and how of conducting new council member orientiations.
  • Planning and preparing for effective meetings.
  • And more!

A member benefit, nonmembers can purchase the e-book at the ICMA Bookstore

This report describes information and telecommunications technologies that have applications for public safety and discusses implementation issues for each. Case studies from the following jurisdictions illustrate the benefits of interagency and interjurisdictional cooperation:

• Oklahoma County, Oklahoma
• Washington County, Oregon
• Mankato, Minnesota, and neighboring jurisdictions.


(22 pp.)

This report includes six case studies from six local governments, large and small, urban and rural, in a variety of natural environments. (16 pp.)

This report describes strategies for preserving open space, common land conservation financing methods and funding sources, and ways of allocating funds among jurisdictions. Purchase of development rights programs receive special attention. Case studies describe how several fast-growing communities successfully identified and secured public funds to save threatened land. (20 pp.)

This report establishes a context in which to examine renewable energy resources and suggests a wide range of
strategies for modernizing local government energy systems. It discusses how local governments can use renewable energy (i.e., solar, wind, small hydro, bioenergy, and geothermal power), addresses program development, and outlines ways to get citizens to support municipal energy projects. (23 pp.)

Recruiting and selecting a local government manager or administrator is one of the most important responsibilities of a local governing body. It requires careful planning, astute evaluation of candidates, and a clear understanding of the relationship between the local government and the administrator.

This handbook presents guidelines to help council members conduct a successful recruitment process. While no two jurisdictions require precisely the same qualifications and responsibilities from their chief appointed official, the guidelines outlined here provide the basis for determining priorities. These guidelines will enable local government officials to go about recruiting and selecting the best possible professional for their needs.

This handbook includes a discussion of:

  1. Resources available to assist in the process conducting the recruitment
  2. Reviewing applications
  3. Identifying and interviewing finalists
  4. Negotiating compensation
  5. Handling the transition

Exhibits present resources and publications available, suggested interview questions, and a summary checklist and timetable.

Updated sections, 2019.

This ICMA resource book aims to help senior managers prepare the next generation of managers. Compiles data, research, and best practices identified by a working group of the City Managers Department of the League of California Cities. Seeks to promote the developmental role of local government managers as they mentor and support aspiring managers who seek higher levels of responsibility in local government. Updated 2010.

Congratulations! Your resume or application has passed muster, and you have been asked for an interview. Give yourself a pat on the back, because that can be the biggest hurdle. But be aware that this is the stage where things really begin to get interesting! Interviews can be conducted via phone, in person, or a combination of the two, so be prepared. Following are some recommendations as you prepare for your interview.