Small municipalities have been the subject of numerous corruption scandals. Bell, California and Crystal City, Texas are just two of many small cities to have made their way into the national spotlight after suffering at the hands of seriously corrupt leadership.1 While news headlines often focus on issues of corruption within state or federal governments, the effects of corruption within local municipalities is equally problematic. First, there are many thousands of small cities and towns in the United States, depending on one’s definition. And these governments receive and spend billions of dollars in public funds. For obvious reasons, however, small cities and towns typically operate with few employees, and have limited resources to expend on non-essential personnel and programs.
This means that the very nature of small municipalities makes them susceptible to corruption, because their small size and workforce do not allow for the kind of oversight and enforcement mechanisms that larger cities, state governments, and the federal government can employ. Nor can small towns usually count on oversight from county-level or state oversight mechanisms, at least absent a specific complaint about egregious conduct that is deemed important enough for higher-level officials to pursue.
Given these limitations, what can small towns and smaller cities do to ensure that their public officials are operating with integrity? In this Practitioner Toolkit, CAPI explores ways in which small governments can work towards the three pillars of governmental integrity: accountability, oversight, and transparency, even with their inherent budget constraints.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity,
Fighting "Small Town" Corruption: How to Obtain Accountability, Oversight, and Transparency,
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/public_integrity/79
appendix_ii_-_unodccp_anti-corruption_tool_kit.pdf (2202 kB)
appendix_iii_-_new_york_city_whistleblower_protection_law.pdf (59 kB)
ingredients_for_an_effective_public_ethics_training_program_-_capi_issue_brief_-_august_2016.pdf (470 kB)