The Decision Making of Public Administrators: Professional Responsibility or Personal Values

By Shirmel Hayden

Shirmel 9.9In light of the recent events that happened in Ferguson, Missouri and have happened all over the world, I thought about the role of public administrators. I thought about a public administrator’s decision-making, specifically how public administrators respond to professional responsibilities. Do personal values interfere with decision-making and responsibilities? More importantly, what is the standard of ethics that are used when decisions must be made?

For the past 10 years, I have noticed that rights have been a challenge and every year I see little change even with conversations about police brutality, school-to-prison pipeline discussions, conferences, workshops, countless research studies, statistics and ongoing advocacy. In 2006, while working on my master’s in public administration at the University of Baltimore, I learned more about civil and human rights. After reading and researching more, I wondered how well these rights implemented are in our society.

Just over the past five years, I have read about unfair sentencing based on race, police brutality in certain communities, mayors involved in public corruption, students pepper sprayed at peaceful demonstrations, minorities in schools being unfairly targeted to the prison pipeline and prisons acting as money making machines with state contracts. I wonder what’s happening. I wonder why the same topics are repeatedly in the news, newspapers and on the Internet. I asked myself, “Is the decision-making of public administrators based on professional responsibility or personal values?”

I have seen the demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns, emails, voting drives and peaceful marches. I listen to the voices of people who speak out about inequity and injustices that continue to exist. I hear many of the same words now as I did my childhood: freedom, expression, education, speech, access, due process, equity, equality, discrimination, right to vote, justice, protection among many others. In a world that is ever changing, how do citizens change with times? Should laws change with time? Should rights be updated according to many of the issues that we face today?  How do we hold public administrators accountable for the decision-making that affects citizens? How are people supposed to get their voices out when they are caught in the whirlwind of decision-making that does not always seem to take the ‘professionally responsible’ approach? Is the idea that people just have to live with what maybe “unfair” decision-making? As citizens, how do we trust public administrators?

What I do see is the division between cultures, communities, gender, ideology and distribution of power, personal interest and education. It seems to be really taking a toll on the overall society. What happens when personal values supersede professional responsibility? How do you separate the two? What is the expectation? Am I expecting too much?



3 thoughts on “The Decision Making of Public Administrators: Professional Responsibility or Personal Values

  1. This is a well-written article, which should give all of us something to think about. I believe that this calls for leadership for the commonn good/public interest, which should transcend all these divisions.

    Stephen R. Rolandi



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