Model Ethics Policy Templates

When we think of ethics in the finance office, our minds might jump to high-profile fraud, malfeasance, or mismanagement. However, everyday ethical issues like vendor gifts or how employees record time occupy much of the finance office’s time and attention. Furthermore, how these how these issues are handled sets the tone for ethical behavior in your local government.

Finance offices often have policies to provide guidance to staff and/or elected officials on how to handle everyday ethical issues. However, getting people to pay attention to and live by these polices can be a challenge.

The new GFOA Code of Ethics is a reimagining of how finance offices think about ethics. The old way was centered on telling people what to do and what not to do. The new Code of Ethics asks finance offices to think about ethics as synonymous with building trust with elected officials, other staff members, and the public.

GFOA has carried through this thinking to a new set of model policies for everyday ethical challenges. Right now, we have policy templates for:

Like GFOA’s new Code of Ethics, these templates reimagine ethics policies. Here are just a few of the key differences.

Traditional Policy New GFOA Model Policy Templates
Often focused solely on what to do and not do Addresses why the policy is important, helps people identify more strongly with the policy
Based on past practice, received wisdom Based on psychological research on what works
Often written using complex words and concepts, which make the policy harder to understand Written to make the core policy guidance and simple as possible
May not address real world complexities Recognizes real world complexities, including the rationalizations to ignore the policy people hear and that the policy will not cover all situations


The new model policy templates can make your policies more understandable, meaningful, and effective. These model policies can reduce the burden on the finance office to respond to undesirable behavior and can improve people’s opinion of the guidance provided by the finance office. So, download the policy templates and customize them to your government. And, let us know if there are other policy topics you’d like to see addressed by a GFOA template.