Since 1984, ASPA has promoted a commitment to high standards of ethical practice by public servants.  The Code of Ethics was revised in 2013 and the Ethics and Standards Implementation Committee (Ethics Committee) was established in 2014. The Code of Ethics presents the key principles that public servants should advance, and its educational and review activities support the ethical behavior of members and hold them accountable for adhering to these principles.  In its current strategic plan, ASPA’s first goal is to ”advocate strong, effective and ethical public governance.”

The full Code of Ethics appears below, along with an overview of the ethics review process, to be launched in May 2016. Here are some additional helpful links.


The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) advances the science, art, and practice of public administration.   The Society affirms its responsibility to develop the spirit of responsible professionalism within its membership and to increase awareness and commitment to ethical principles and standards among all those who work in public service in all sectors. To this end, we, the members of the Society, commit ourselves to uphold the following principles:


1. Advance the Public Interest. Promote the interests of the public and put service to the public above service to oneself.

2. Uphold the Constitution and the Law. 
Respect and support government constitutions and laws, while seeking to improve laws and policies to promote the public good. 

3. Promote democratic participation. 
Inform the public and encourage active engagement in governance.  Be open, transparent and responsive, and respect and assist all
persons in their dealings with public organizations.

4. Strengthen social equity.
Treat all persons with fairness, justice, and equality and respect individual differences, rights, and freedoms. Promote affirmative action and other initiatives to reduce unfairness, injustice, and inequality in society.

5. Fully Inform and Advise. 
Provide accurate, honest, comprehensive, and timely information and advice to elected and appointed officials and governing board members, and to staff members in your organization.

6. Demonstrate personal integrity. 
Adhere to the highest standards of conduct to inspire public confidence and trust in public service.

7. Promote Ethical Organizations: 
Strive to attain the highest standards of ethics, stewardship, and public service in organizations that serve the public.
8. Advance Professional Excellence: 
Strengthen personal capabilities to act competently and ethically and encourage the professional development of others.

A separate document contains practices that serve as a guide to behavior for members of ASPA in carrying out its principles.
 To view the practices, click here.

Members of ASPA commit themselves to support the Code of Ethics and may be sanctioned for their failure and refusal to uphold the Code.

ASPA Code of Ethics Review Process: Overview

As part of its commitment to advance and implement the Code of Ethics, ASPA provides a review process with four elements as a service to members.
  1. Responding to inquiries from members about ethical standards and handling ethical dilemmas
    • Questions about what the ethical standards mean and how they can be implemented and about handling ethical dilemmas can be sent to the Ethics and Standards Implementation Committee (Ethics Committee).

  2. Reviewing requests for help from members who have been penalized for upholding the Code and providing support to them
    • If members think that they have been unfairly sanctioned for actions they took to advance the principles of the Code of Ethics, they can send information about their actions and the repercussions for taking these actions to the Ethics Committee.

    • The Committee will contact the member to get additional information and explore what actions could be taken to assist the member.

  3. Recognizing members whose actions exemplify the code

    • Persons who have observed an ASPA member taking actions that represent an exemplary approach to advancing the Code of Ethics should submit information about the member’s actions to the Ethics Committee. 

    • The Ethics Committee will use information from these examples to develop anonymous case studies of positive responses to ethical challenges.

  4. Reviewing and seeking to resolve complaints about a member whose actions may not have met the standards of the Code of Ethics

    • A report about the actions or inactions of an ASPA member that may not comply with the Code can be sent to the Ethics Committee. The Committee will assess and seek to resolve the complaint. The Ethics Committee will interact only with the member and the complainant and will not reveal their identity.

    • The Ethics Committee will first examine whether the reported action could if substantiated be considered a violation of the code. If it is deemed not to be a violation or is based on incorrect information, the complaint will be dismissed with an explanation given to the complainant. 

    • If the actions could be a violation of the Code, the Ethics Committee will talk with the member to understand the member’s actions and intentions. When appropriate, the Ethics Committee will offer advice about how the member might have acted differently to better comply with the standards in the Code. The Ethics Committee will encourage voluntary corrective action by the member to comply with the Code.

    • The Ethics Committee may not make any public statements identifying the member, impose any sanctions or initiate a formal investigation in response to a complaint.

All aspects of the review process are intended to be a constructive process that helps members understand how the Code can be applied to specific situations. Issues identified in questions, requests for assistance, exemplary actions and complaints will be used in the educational activities of the Ethics Committee to help raise awareness of ethical challenges and expectations.

All questions and other communications with the Ethics Committee can be sent to or to:
ASPA Ethics Review Questions
1730 Rhode Island Ave., NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036