SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 19, 2010

Are you as ethical as a public official? Take the quiz

"You are an elected official.

You have been stopped by a local police officer on your way home from a fundraiser. The officer suspects that you have been drinking and asks you to perform a field sobriety test.

May you tell the police officer that you are an elected official and direct her to escort you home without conducting the field sobriety test or citing you for any other infractions?"

If you answered, "Yes, that is one of the benefits of office," you would be wrong. Very, very wrong.

But on the State Ethics Commission's online training quiz, which must be completed by the majority of public officials by April, participants can go back and guess again — and again, and again — until they get the answer right.

In fact, it is impossible to fail the state-mandated quiz, even if the quiz-taker's first guess to all 25 multiple-choice questions is wrong.

As part of the state's ethics reform bill, which the governor signed into law last year, public officials (with some exceptions) are required to complete an online ethics training program every two years and sign an acknowledgement every year that they received a summary of the state's conflict-of-interest laws.

The ethics training program includes what the State Ethics Commission calls a "quiz," consisting of 25 questions with four multiple-choice answers apiece. Quiz-takers must first type in their names and eventually answer all the questions correctly before advancing to a completion page that they must print out and submit to the town or city.

Participants don't have to prove their identity or show any form of ID.

There's no final grade, and they have an unlimited number of opportunities to get each answer right. Punching in a wrong answer triggers a box with an explanation and keeps giving trainees more chances until they answer correctly.

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