Give local officials space to have a conversation about integrity

Detective Hermann Tjenk Willink (PvdA) during the debate in the House of Representatives on the Final Information Report, May 2021.Photo by Remko de Waal / ANP

Many times city council members resign even though they are later found innocent. This is because, on the one hand, there is much, much more searching for a stick to overcome, and on the other hand, there is no idea how to deal with accusations of breach of integrity or unwanted behavior.

In two recent cases, aldermen had to leave the square after suspicions of undesirable behavior were raised against them. Further investigation revealed that there was no doubt about the accusations against them. From this we learn once again that proper research is necessary before any conclusions can be drawn. Because you are especially in a vulnerable political environment and you quickly get the position of Barbertje or Trial by the media

About the author

Marcel Hendricks He is the president of the Aldermen Society and an alderman in Tilburg, Jeroen Van Goul He is a director and confidential advisor to an alderman of the Aldermen Society.

In his series of articles on integrity, Volkskrant– Journalist Arijan Korteweg has already indicated that who pays, decides. In other words, there is not always an independent investigation. The mayor’s role is also very important in this regard, because ultimately he is the guardian of integrity and must stand above the fringes. From the Aldermen Society, we see that this leads to a complex and sometimes uncomfortable role for the mayor.


Sometimes the mayor—rightly or wrongly—takes his hands off the responsible official, or takes on the role of detective and urges the accused councilman to withdraw. Noblesse commits: Of course there are also aldermen who make a mistake. There, of course, justice must be served, but in a fair and accurate manner. Especially at a time when trust in government is already declining.

stated that Informateur Herman Tjeenk Willlink in his final report That in our constitutional and democratic state, trust and moderation seem to have given way to distrust and escalation. And it appears that the members of the municipal council are precisely the sons of the draft law there. For this reason, from the Aldermen Society, we have previously argued for support and (legal) protection for people who are subject to a magnifying glass because of their position as holders of political office.

Posted on Wednesday Monitor integrity and security The Ministry of the Interior (BZK) stated that members of the House of Representatives are in a state of cramping and often abstain from voting, “out of fear of possible negative consequences”.

reliable compass

Good governance and integrity in the spotlight. The view that there are two tastes (right and wrong) is replaced by the realization that it is often a little less than black and white. In order to have a reliable compass to point at, we suggest talking about “more wisdom”. That is why Aldermen’s Rogier van der Wal Association (Podium 31 Organizing knowledge and network for city and region) and Willeke Slingerland (Resilient Democracy Lecturer at Saxion University of Applied Sciences) to deepen this concept and make it practical for officials.

We believe that the term ‘norms’, which comes from social work and work ethic, is also very useful for public administration. New municipal officials, who may start working soon, can benefit a lot from this. Moresprudence systematically gathers knowledge and insights about the ethical aspects of business and how to approach them. It can be the result of ethical deliberations, in which ethical considerations and choices are discussed in depth and openness.

methodical style

This conversation is not a one-time exercise: it requires a repetitive and methodical approach. This way you can learn together from integrity issues to avoid new incidents. The Assembly of Representatives of the House of Representatives, along with the Assembly of Mayors and with support from the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations, recently put together so-called “conversation beginnings.” Both the formal and informal aspect are discussed, as well as the core values ​​and at what point they may conflict. The networking effect also deserves attention.

Morality is delicate in the Netherlands, and is soon experienced as paternalism or coercion. The Dutch value their independence. But we think the folks at the board table are also willing to have a good discussion on this; A way out of the predicament in which the local government finds itself. Standards and values ​​change, and officials in a glass house. At the same time, the mutual trust between the government, parliament, civil society and local media is fragile and weak. Informal networks appear crucial to decision-making, without being prominent. It’s time to take a closer look at this.

Governance culture

There is also a relationship here with administrative culture, and the extent to which it is formal and politicized. Fighting culture requires a different approach than the community or guardian culture. It is important to be given and feel the space at the lecture table to apply your ethical standards in concrete situations. And to give this space to others as well. A discussion of more teachings helps with this: More

In this conversation, we distinguish four dimensions: the director’s personality dimensions, the character, the organization, and the environment dimensions. Each of these dimensions has its own ethical questions. Ethics requires leadership and leadership requires ethics, emphasized Alex Brennenkimmer, the former National Ombudsman who passed away this year. Finally, it is important that moral flexibility in everyday practice also leads to moral “representation” (verb, red So that he does not stop at just talking.

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