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When the Worst Happens

As appointed guardians of a municipal operation, managers and administrators are held to a higher standard than other business operations. The actions of these public servants are often felt by thousands or more trusting community members. They are relied upon to do what is in the municipality's best interest. While elected leaders may come and go with each election cycle, the administrative leaders could spend decades in office. Officials look to the managers and administrators to provide accurate information and guidance to assist in the decision-making for the municipality. The daily grind and never-ending repetition of weekly, monthly, yearly processes and reports fall on the shoulders of the experienced staff leaders.

Unfortunately, some of those entrusted with municipal management succumb to various illegal, or at best highly inappropriate, actions due to greed or financial desperation. In some cases, these actions can meet the threshold of "moral turpitude," a legal term defined as "1: an act or behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community, 2: a quality of dishonesty or other immorality that is determined by a court to be present in the commission of a criminal offense."

In extreme circumstances, “moral turpitude” can be cause for disbarment and other disciplinary actions. It is not unusual for moral turpitude to be found in theft, perjury, and vice crimes and introduced as evidence. Although rarely found directly within local government operations, there have been cases of municipal leaders breaking the law with “moral turpitude.” And when those cases happen, they erode the public trust residents have in their local government, even though the crime may not have been directly associated with the municipal operations.

So why should we be concerned when this happens? It is the after-effects that wreak havoc on local government. Suddenly you are left with a difficult situation where a key leadership position is now vacant, and someone needs to pick up the pieces and push forward to not only get or keep the municipality on track but, more importantly, regain the residents' trust. Simply put, professionals must take swift action to advise and guide the elected board on how to best handle the ongoing operation.

Municipalities cannot simply close down in order to deal with a situation. They have a duty to provide services even during the most challenging times. Bringing in an experienced team like those at KMS can ease the burden of functional operation and allow you to concentrate on other, more important activities. No one expects gross violations of the law, but it’s important to know that help is available to our townships, boroughs, and cities to ensure the doors are still open when these things happen.

With one simple email or phone call, you can "fire this thing up" and know that help is on the way, even during the worst of times.


About the Author

David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 32 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.

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