QUINCY -- The Adams County Board recently approved a "code of conduct" for all county employees and elected officials.
The code was developed by the board's Legislative and Judicial Committee. It was patterned after guidelines established by some other Illinois counties.
"Several counties throughout the state have a code of conduct for their elected officials and their county board, and we did not have one. So we thought we should look into adopting one," said Ryan Niekamp, the committee's chairman.
The code puts into writing some general guidelines to help make sure elected officials, county employees and board or commission appointees "be independent, impartial and responsible to the people; that government decisions and policy be made in proper channels of the government structure; that public office or the pursuit of public office not be used for personal gains; and that the public has trust and confidence in the integrity of its government," the document said.
Niekamp said he feels the code of conduct "addresses about everything that should be addressed."
Adams County State's Attorney Gary Farha said the code "applies to all county employees, all elected officials and County Board members, too."
He said the code's various provisions are in addition to existing ethics rules that address prohibited political activity while on the job, gift bans and related issues.
"It's there to remind people that we have an obligation to the citizens," Farha said.
The new guidelines say the Adams County Board's Executive Committee will serve as a Board of Ethics to conduct hearings, if needed, to determine the facts if a complaint is filed about any alleged violations of the code. The state's attorney will service as "ethics advisor," according to the document.
Farha said the Board of Ethics will be a mechanism to allow redress of grievances "if a taxpayer had some difficulties with a county official or saw something that they don't think is right."
Adams County Clerk Chuck Venvertloh said having a formal code of conduct "on paper" helps to ensure all employees and elected officials are aware of what conduct is expected of them.
"If you don't have it written down, how do you make sure people aren't doing something you don't want them to do?" he said.
Venvertloh said he doesn't foresee any big issues with the introduction of the code of conduct.
"I don't think there's anything in there that I don't already do," he said.
In a summarized form, the code of conduct says elected officials, county employees and board or commission appointees shall:
º "Represent the county as a whole and maintain a professional image, putting loyalty to the county above personal interest, individuals, districts and particular groups."
º "Conduct themselves in a manner that justifies the confidence placed in them by the people, at all times maintaining the integrity and discharging ethically the high responsibilities of public service."
º Fully disclose any "real or potential conflicts of interest" and "avoid improper influence and abuse of office in public service."
º "Create a positive work environment in public meetings and tolerate different viewpoints."
º Not show favoritism, grant patronage in the employment or working conditions, or directly supervise a relative, a person with whom he or she resides, or a person with whom he or she maintains a close personal relationship.
º Not use or disclose confidential information except in the performance of official duties, when required by law or when permitted by whistle-blower law.
º Not make, or participate in making, any county governmental decisions if the individual "has any economic interest" in the matter being considered.