Ethics courses "can give meaning" to one's accomplishments, says The Times editorial (Nov. 27). Right on. Such courses could help most city managers escape the opprobrious title of the "least liked city official." For example, once I was asked if the Laguna Beach city manager should be fired. The answer then was, "No. People just don't like city managers. Many don't use ethics."
So a city manager is often in trouble. There are homeowner groups (Once a city manager got fired for saying, "Forget homeowner associations. Who's running Laguna Beach, anyhow?"). There are shop owners, environmentalists and, always, developers. And most important, of course, city councils. Here's where a college ethics course comes in. Coping.
Let's take a hypothetical scenario in a town like Laguna Beach. The town's profile might go something like this:
Environmentalists seem to be in the majority, vote-wise. Most people are happy, right? Wrong. Not the grumbling, conservative minority. Not those who cry that the City Council is anti-business. Or the slow-growthers who think the city manager's sweeting up to the pro-growthers. Or environmentalists seeing the manager packing council chambers with a sports complex claque shouting for a sports development in Alta Laguna. Even worse. People imagining the manager uncorking his own pro-development agenda, end-running the City Council.