“There can be no dissent from the principle that all officials must act with unwavering integrity, absolute impartiality and complete devotion to the public interest. The principle must be followed not only in reality but in appearance.”
- President John F. Kennedy
The concept of avoiding an appearance of impropriety has a long legal history which pre-dates our country's founding. Today, many scholars consider the appearance standard to be one of the most important ways for judging the actions of public officials. As two leading Ethics and Public Policy professors explain:
The standard for avoiding the appearance of impropriety drives public service. In no small measure, it even defines it. But the obligation to avoid the appearance of impropriety is not intended to substitute for ethical action. Instead and ideally, it points to the public manager’s obligation to reinforce the public perception of legitimate authority exercised on behalf of the public interest…It is not just that more needs to be done in the area, but that avoiding the appearance of impropriety is an ongoing and never-ending challenge. (Carol Lewis and Stuart Gilman, “Serving the Public Interest”)
The appearance standard reflects the universal belief that “no man can serve two masters.” The concern is that when public officials appear to have personal interests, their judgment and thus the public’s trust become compromised.
This training lays the critical groundwork for LAUSD officials to meet the “appearance standard” by providing an overview of what constitutes an actual conflict of interest under state laws and LAUSD policies.