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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-962-3668 or Jessica Cowles, ethics advisor, at email@example.com 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:
We believe professional management is essential to efficient and democratic local government by elected officials.
Affirm the dignity and worth of local government services and maintain a deep sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant.
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.
Serve the best interests of the people.
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.
Recognize that elected representatives are accountable to their community for the decisions they make; members are responsible for implementing those decisions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Public office is a public trust. A member shall not leverage his or her position for personal gain or benefit.