Officials: Beware succumbing to human bias
Susan Willeke, Ohio Ethics Commission, explains the “do’s and don’ts”
for public office holders
By Jan Boyer
“Hiring a relative can be a felony,” stated Susan Willeke of the Ohio
Ethics Commission when she spoke to her audience on the subject of
Ethics in Political Office Thursday evening at the League of Women
Voters educational presentation. She continued that long gone are
the days when the wife of the newly elected sheriff automatically
became the jail matron.
Hiring a member of your family: father, mother, grandfather,
grandmother, son, daughter, grandchildren, brother, sister or any
relative living in one’s home, is today considered a felony. In
defining ethics, she pointed out that it helps us guide our lives and
the one word that she thinks of in relationship to ethics is
bias. Bias is part of the human condition from which we cannot
Although we all have biases, when we accept public office, we need to
refrain from practices, gifts both material and aesthetic, that might
lead us to be biased or give the impression that we could be biased
toward any individual or group. A breakfast at the local fast
food restaurant would not be a problem (unless regularly repeated) but
an expensive sit down meal in an elegant restaurant most certainly
would create the impression of bias if not actually cause it.
Even though the official may say it has no affect on decision making,
the truth is that it does have an effect, even if unconsciously.
And to the general public, it certainly gives the impression of a bias
Small promotional gifts would not be seen as creating bias but larger
gifts, game tickets, plane fare, etc., cross that invisible line into
the unethical range of gifts. The ethics law is in action when a
public servant steps away when conflict of interest arises.
Susan Willeke was an entertaining and effective speaker as she outlined
clearly the lines that must not be crossed for a public office
holder. She effectively furthered a goal of the League of Women
Voters, to promote an educated citizenry.
While attendance was sparse, the audience notably included many local
public officials and candidates for public office, including: Jason
Aslinger, Jim Detling, Diane Delaplane, Jon Hein, Julie Monnin, Carol
Ginn, Cindy Pike, Scott Zumbrink, Mike Bowers and Barbara Fee.