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Front Page » Government » 10,000 pass corruption-busting classes

10,000 pass corruption-busting classes

Written by on December 4, 2013

To combat corruption, 10,000 of the Miami-Dade’s nearly 26,000 workers have passed a three-hour online ethics course, and by the end of the month 10,000 more are expected to do so.

The remaining 6,000 largely operational and field employees like transit and waste workers got an extension because their access to computers on the job is limited, said Rhonda Victor Sibilia, communications director for the county’s Commission on Ethics and Public Trust.

While employees rush to finish the course by the Dec. 31 goal, the ethics commission is wearing a slightly different hat than it is used to: tech support.

“Over Thanksgiving, we had a lot of people taking advantage of the long weekend and trying to take the course,” Ms. Sibilia said. Too many logging on can overload the system and result in some being kicked off. The limit could be 100, she said, and as people try to finish the required course by Dec. 31 a similar problem may arise.

The fix is simple, if a bit analog: if you can’t log on, try again in 30 minutes.

“That seems to do the trick,” she said.

The longest training the county has ever tried responds to perceived very bad corruption, said Joseph M. Centorino, commission executive director. While effectiveness of the course will be hard to quantify, he said, he hopes that over time citizen perception of Miami-Dade corruption decreases.

“With the corruption issues or problems that have occurred, everyone is looking for the silver bullet,” he said. “How are we going to clean up government? There is no silver bullet… [but] ethics is a necessary part of public service.”

The course’s nine sections include whistle blowing, penalties, gifts, financial disclosures and lobbying.

Responses vary, with some employees failing the quiz at the course’s end and having to try again. “But if employees have to repeat the course and do it again, that’s a good thing,” Mr. Centorino said. Others employees, he said, have called praising the program.

Initial bias against the online method saw it as too antiseptic, said Mr. Centorino. But county ethics employees acting out the segments for three hours add a human touch and face to the ins and outs of the county’s Conflict of Interest and Code of Ethics ordinance, he said.

The course was recorded in the county commission chambers in two days last year. Each session was four hours, and the resulting three-hour video was cut from those sessions and packaged by California-based online learning company Syntrio. At each recording, 50 county employees were present, two from each department. Five members of the ethics department appear on camera. To preserve continuity, they wore the same clothes each day.

“I wanted to create something that was a little more personal, so that [employees] could see someone that works for the county,” Mr. Centorino said.

Employees access the ethics course by logging into the county server, which redirects them to Syntrio’s server.

This course isn’t the final ethics training for county workers. In two years, said Mr. Centorino, they’ll take a shorter refresher course for one to two hours.