Published Nov. 19, 2015
Nearly 94% of respondents to a GSA survey said ethics reform should be a high or very high priority in the upcoming General Assembly. People working in the clergy profession in South Carolina were viewed as having the highest ethical standards, while those working in state government were seen as having the lowest.
In the State Integrity Investigation, an assessment of state government accountability and transparency, South Carolina was one of 16 states that earned a D-minus grade. Last year, S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas introduced an ethics reform bill, H. 3722, which passed the House and is sitting with the Senate.
We recently polled readers of our GSA Daily email for their views on ethics in the state. We first asked readers how high a priority ethics reform should take in the upcoming General Assembly; 47 people responded to this question. Here’s how they selected:
- 74.47 — Very high.
- 19.15% — High.
- 4.26% — Very low.
- 2.13% — Moderate.
Perceptions by profession
We then presented readers a list of 10 professions or vocations — automotive repair, banking and finance, business and corporate, clergy, education, county and municipal government, state government, heath care, journalism and law — and asked how they rated ethical standards of people working in these professions in South Carolina.
People working in the clergy profession were viewed as having the highest ethical standards. More than 20% of readers viewed clergy members as having very high standards, and just over 40% viewed them as having high standards. Clergy was followed by the education and corporate categories. People working in state government were seen as having the lowest standards, with some 37% of readers viewing them as having very low ethical standards. County and municipal government employees came in second worst, and journalists came in third worst.
The below chart breaks down the responses:
Among the comments left by readers, the theme of good-old boys was a recurring one. As one reader wrote: “It is about time we hold our elected officials to the same laws that the rest of us have to live by. The S.C. good-old boy network needs to come to an end.”
In another comment, one reader questioned motivation behind the ethics reform bill writing, “If the Legislature again uses ethics reform as a smoke screen to keep from tackling the real critical issues (like transportation, education, child safety and senior issues), then they all need to be thrown out.”
Another reader questioned H. 3722 itself. They said, “The Ethics Bill has many flaws and does not accomplish was its name describes,” and then linked to a post on the S.C. Policy Council’s website.
Another reader observed, “Ethics, similar to art, both shape and reflect the culture of a place and time; ours is woefully lacking.”
Here is a selection of comments from our readers. Comments have been edited only for style and typos.
I would like to read the reports about the level of ethics in the state government. I have encountered a high level of ignorance on the part of those determining policy for our public servants.
The way you ask question No. 2 can vary greatly based on whom you are dealing with. Some auto shops are great; some are crooks. Some politicians are great but most, after they have been in office for five or 10 years, only care about telling you what they have to in order to get elected again. We need a limit on how many terms someone can serve, not just the number of years per term.
I think “ethics” on this stage and most likely all others is a sham to be disregarded in the name of greed, self-interest, to name a few.
Politicians are only out for themselves and will do anything to get re-elected, including taking bribes or getting laws passed to help themselves or their friends and associates. Vote out all incumbents.
Greenville County should institute a way to allow citizens to subscribe to public notices via email. The city has been doing it for years, but the county doesn’t seem interested in public input.
Ethics to politicians is like rules to teenagers, they think they are there for you to break to get more publicity. It’s a laughable position to them and a sad position for the public they should represent.
Whatever your profession, service is a privilege within which character can shine.
Primary focus in South Carolina seems to always be all about money. Not interested in ethics.
Needs some effort and focus to renew the culture of ignorance and apathy.
These are generalizations. It really depends on the individual entity. There are unethical people in every profession.
We need more transparency throughout everything.
There is good reason why so many people mistrust the government at all levels.
I only cheat and lie when I’m guaranteed to not get caught.