Planning History

Contents Page

Quantitative Methods & Analysis


Planning Ethics Resources

AICP Code of Ethics & Professional Conduct


AICP Advisory Rulings


Martin Wachs, ed.  Ethics in Planning  (Rutgers:  CUPR, 1985)


Carol Barrett, Everyday Ethics for Practicing Planners (APA Planners Pres, 2002)


Ethical Prescriptions of Planning


Mapping Planners’ Code of Ethics on Rules of Professional Conduct

1.  Public responsibility

            a.  rights of others

            b.  long-range consequences of present actions

            c.  interrelatedness of decisions

d.  Provide adequate, timely, clear & accurate information

                        (1)  May not fail to provide adequate, timely, clear, and accurate information

                        (16) Do not accept work that cannot be performed in a timely fashion

                        (17) Do not plagiarize

                        (18) Do not coerce others to reach findings which are not supported by evidence

            e. public participation

            f.  Seek social justice

                        (20) Do not discriminate unlawfully

            g.  excellence in design, historical & environmental preservation

            h.  Deal fairly

                        (8) No private deals with participants when in authority

                        (9) No prohibited private discussions with decision makers


2.  Responsibility to Client

            a.  exercise independent professional judgment

            b.  Accept decision of client re. objectives

                        (7) Do not disclose privileged information without cause

                        (19) Do not misrepresent or conceal client’s interests

            c.  Conflict of interests (avoid even appearance of conflict)

                        (3) No sophistry

                        (4) No moonlighting (without permission)

                        (5) No taking bribes (for public employees)

                        (6) No undisclosed self-interest


3.  Responsibility to Profession

            a.  Integrity

                        (2) No “good soldier” defense (may not accept illegal or unethical assignments)

                        (12) No false credentials

                        (13) No offers to bribe or coerce

                        (14) No abuse of position/power

                        (15) No working beyond competence

                        (25) Nor any other wrongful act that reflects adversely on professional conduct

            b.  public education

            c.  Fairness to professional colleagues

                        (10) Do not misrepresent your fellows

            d.  share research

            e.  no boilerplating

            f.   support the next generation of professionals

            g.  support underrepresented groups in the profession

            h.  pursue own professional development

            i.  Ethical practice

                        (21) Must cooperate with AICP Ethics Officer

                        (22) No retaliation or threats in ethics charges

                        (23) No using ethics charges for tactical advantage

                        (24) No frivolous filings

            j.  pro-bono professional work

Study Questions from 2007 Presentation:

1.  According to the Code of Procedures of the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, an AICP member charged with ethics misconduct is subject to the final determination of:

a.The AICP Commission

b.The Executive Committee of AICP

c. The Executive Director of AICP

d.TheAICP Ethics Committee


2.  If a person has a question regarding the propriety of professional conduct of a certified planner per the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, she/he should:

a. Request informal or formal advice from the Ethics Officer

b. File a complaint with the President of the American Planning Association

c. Submit a Request for Review by the Board of Professional Conduct Review

d. Submit an advisory to the AICP Commission


3.  If a person wishes to file a charge of misconduct against a certified planner, she/he would submit a letter to the:

a. President of AICP

b. AICP Commission

c. Director of AICP

d. Ethics Officer


4.  Who is the Ethics Officer as described in the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional conduct?

a. The Executive Director of APA/AICP

b. The Professional Development Officer of each chapter

c. The President of the AICP Commission

d. The President of the American Planning Association


5.  Which section of the Code of Ethics and Professional conduct contains rules of conduct for planning professionals?

a. Section C.

b Section A

c. Section B

d. Both Section B and C


6. You are the planning director of a medium-size city in an urban county sharing common boundaries with the regional council of governments. The COG has announced it will incorporate a development moratorium in its draft advisory regional plan. Your department has been working with local county property owners to incorporate a part of undeveloped land at the boundary of the city in order to create an intensive business park. As the city’s chief land use administrator, you should first:

a. Resign in protest over the continued interference by the COG in local matters

b. Call your COG representative to discuss the implications that the COG’s proposal could have on your city’s annexation and economic development plan

c. Call the local newspaper editor to denounce the COG’s action and fix the blame for any loss of jobs with COG officials

d. Review the draft advisory plan and policies to determine if the proposed moratorium affects your city’s intended action

Ethics Scenarios (from “Ethics in Planning: You Be the Judge,” Carol D. Barrett, Planning, November, 1984)

1,  Potential Conflict of Interests

            The county council is considering an ordinance that would drastically increase the water and sewage fees for rental units.  The county’s housing planner has analyzed the proposal and feels that the proposed fees are excessive because the amount of water consumed by apartment units is far less than that of single-family houses.  The planner also feels the rate hikes will exacerbate the county’s existing rental housing shortage by encouraging the conversion of rental units to condominiums.

            The planner prepares a staff report that recommends that the revised fee structure not be approved.  However, the planner does not declare a potential conflict of interests, even though her husband owns a small rental property.

            Was the behavior of the planner who prepared the staff report ethical?


2.                  Release of Development Information

The staff of a state planning agency is reviewing a development proposal.  Most of the data it has assembled show the project in an unfavorable light.  The state’s policy is that all working files should be open to the public, but the staff planners are concerned about releasing information in a piecemeal fashion because it could be misconstrued.

The president of a citizens group opposed to the project has requested an appointment to see the file. The president has also stated her intention to seek the state’s help in organizing opposition to the project.  The state’s director of planning decides to remove the single most critical document and keep it in his desk for “further study” during the time when the leader of the citizens group is reviewing the file. 

Was the behavior of the planner who edited the file ethical?


3.                  Letter to the Editor

A city planner writes a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.  The letter compliments the county’s planning commission on its refusal to approve a rezoning request that would have allowed further industrial development.  The planner signs the letter with his name and home address only.  The city’s planning director agrees with the planner’s conclusions and even notes that the comments expressed are of a professional, not a political, nature.

The letter to the editor provokes behind-the-scenes activity in which pressure is put on the planning director to fire the planner.  The director refuses.  Instead, he inserts a memo in the office file listing several “legitimate vehicles”—going to meetings and giving speeches—through which staff planners can express themselves publicly.  The planner also is told to use more discretion in the future and never to sign his own name to such a letter.

Was the behavior of the planner who wrote the letter ethical?


4.                  Gag Order

Several city planners oppose a freeway system plan that was adopted by a regional planning agency.  They contend that the original staff plan has been emasculated and that the final product discredits the profession.

The city’s planning director, who supports the freeway system plan, refuses to allow her staff to express public opposition to the plan, either as professionals or as citizens.  She threatens to fire any planners who disobey her orders in this matter.

The planners draft a statement for presentation at the local APA chapter meeting, but then receive word from a reliable source that pressure will be put on the planning director to fire them if such a statement is presented.  Fearing for their jobs, the planners do not make any statements in opposition to the freeway system.  But they do tell the local APA chapter, at a meeting attended by the director, that they have been forbidden from taking a public position on the freeway system plan.

Was the behavior of the planning director in threatening to fire her employees ethical?


5.                  Employment Opportunity

A small city of 25,000 on a lovely lake is being wooed by several hotel entrepreneurs.  In evaluating the various proposals, the city’s planning staff has been asked for information about the number and types of jobs to be made available and, also, how many of these jobs would be targeted to city residents.

In reviewing the data submitted, the staff notices that the jobs are segregated by sex.  For example, women are to be employed in the coffee shops as waitresses and men are to work in the main restaurant as waiters.

A member of the planning staff meets with a planning commissioner to discuss this matter, and the commissioner volunteers to contact the developer and challenge the hotel’s policies.  A debate develops among the planners, with some arguing that the management of the hotel is outside the purview of their responsibilities.

Was the behavior of the planner who contacted the commissioner ethical?


6.                  Saving the Wetlands

A regional planner who worked on a wetlands preservation study gives certain findings to an environmental group, without receiving authorization from the director of the agency.  The planner took his action because he felt the director had purposely left out of the study report those findings that did not support the agency’s official policies.  The findings that were deleted had been well documented.

Was the behavior of the planner who released the information ethical?


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Last updated:  9/24/07  AJF