Syllabus for MPL-582



Ethical and socially responsible leadership are core dimensions in the education of local and global public servants. Law, Ethics, and Decision Making in the Public Sector provides you with the essential framework for personal and professional ethical decision making applied in the context of diverse workplaces and organizations. Through the study of ethical theories, case studies in applied ethics, and specific assignments looking at legal and ethical complexities, you will examine your personal and professional values, assess your moral intelligence, and consider the legal foundations of public service.


On successful completion of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Critically assess, diagnose, and characterize behavior in the public sector from a knowledgeable perspective.
  2. Dissect the structure and powers of vital agencies and decision makers and discuss the basic formation and powers of government in New Jersey.
  3. Describe and analyze the leadership challenges and practical issues that public officials face in discharging their responsibilities including "pay-to-play" dilemmas.
  4. Apply basic legal principles and theories of best practice to ethics, employment, constituent interaction, and managerial responsibilities for public sector officials.
  5. Interpret and contrast various decisions of officials in leadership roles by arguing the pros and cons of their actions.
  6. Make decisions with integrity that are ethical, fair, and socially responsible and that respond to the diversity of cultures and socioeconomic conditions.
  7. Separate politics from government and lay bare the realities of serving in the public sector while striving to conduct oneself with a high moral and ethical conscience.


  1. History and structure of government
  2. Legal aspects of governmental decision making and powers
  3. Ethical and moral considerations defined by legislation and case law
  4. "Pay to Play" and constituent relations generally
  5. Socially responsible actions that seek to achieve the greatest good through government


You will need the following textbooks to do the work of the course. They will be supplemented by various material reflecting current events, issues, and studies. The required textbooks are available from the College's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

  1. Sharp, B. S., Aguirre, G., & Kickham, K. (Eds.) (2011). Managing in the public sector: A casebook in ethics and leadership. Boston: Longman.

ISBN-13: 978-0-13-603975-4

  1. Scrivo, T. P. (Ed.) (2011). New Jersey local government deskbook. Newark, NJ: New Jersey Law Journal Books.

ISBN-13: 978-1-57625-464-6


Law, Ethics, and Decision Making in the Public Sector is a three-credit, graduate course, consisting of four (4) modules. Modules include an overview, a list of topics, learning objectives, assigned reading, and activities. Module titles are listed below.

  1. Module 1: History and Basic Structure of Government

Course objectives covered in this module: 2, 7

  1. Module 2: Ethics—A Look Inside

Course objectives covered in this module: 1, 7

  1. Module 3: Official Duties and Moral Dilemmas

Course objectives covered in this module: 3, 4

  1. Module 4: Making the Best Decision

Course objectives covered in this module: 5, 6, 7


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in online discussion forums and complete four substantive papers (one for each module in the course). See below for more details.

Consult the course Calendar for assignment due dates.

Discussion Forums

Each module in the course has two or more online class discussion forums. All forums take place asynchronously. Post your robust reflections on the assigned readings for each module and interact with your peers through discussion and dialogue to build a hospitable online learning community.

Online discussions provide an opportunity for you to interact with your classmates. During this aspect of the course, you respond to prompts that assist you in developing your ideas, you share those ideas with your classmates, and you comment on their posts. Forum interactions promote development of a community of learners, critical thinking, and exploratory learning.

Please participate in online forums as you would in constructive face-to-face discussions. You are expected to post well-reasoned and thoughtful reflections for each item, making reference, as appropriate, to your readings. You are also expected to reply to your classmates' posts in a respectful, professional, and courteous manner. You may, of course, post questions asking for clarification or further elucidation on a topic.

Module Papers

Each module concludes with a written paper based on a fact pattern that you are to interpret and analyze. All papers should be between 8 and 15 pages, typed double-spaced. Please see the individual modules for further details about each paper, including evaluation rubrics that will aid in the grading of each paper.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

  1. Discussion forums (8)—40 percent
  2. Module papers—60 percent

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:
























Below 73

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or higher on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., assignments, discussion postings, projects, etc.). Graduate students must maintain a B average overall to remain in good academic standing.


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

  1. Read carefully the entire Syllabus, making sure that all aspects of the course are clear to you and that you have all the materials required for the course.

  1. Take the time to read the entire Online Student Handbook. The Handbook answers many questions about how to proceed through the course and how to get the most from your educational experience at Thomas Edison State College.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the learning management systems environment—how to navigate it and what the various course areas contain. If you know what to expect as you navigate the course, you can better pace yourself and complete the work on time.

  1. If you are not familiar with Web-based learning be sure to review the processes for posting responses online and submitting activities before class begins.

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:

  1. To stay on track throughout the course, begin each week by consulting the course Calendar. The Calendar provides an overview of the course and indicates due dates for submitting activities, posting discussions, and scheduling and taking examinations.

  1. Check Announcements regularly for new course information.


Students at Thomas Edison State College are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State College expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the College insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty takes the following forms:

  1. Cheating
  2. Plagiarizing (including copying and pasting from the Internet without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources)
  3. Fabricating information or citations
  4. Facilitating acts of dishonesty by others
  5. Unauthorized access to examinations or the use of unauthorized materials during exam administration
  1. Submitting the work of another person or work previously used without informing the mentor
  1. Tampering with the academic work of other students

Academic dishonesty will result in disciplinary action and possible dismissal from the College. Students who submit papers that are found to be plagiarized will receive an F on the plagiarized activity, may receive a grade of F for the course, and may face dismissal from the College.

A student who is charged with academic dishonesty will be given oral or written notice of the charge. If a mentor or College official believes the infraction is serious enough to warrant referral of the case to the academic dean, or if the mentor awards a final grade of F in the course because of the infraction, the student and the mentor will be afforded formal due process.

If a student is found cheating or using unauthorized materials on an examination, he or she will automatically receive a grade of F on that examination. Students who believe they have been falsely accused of academic dishonesty should seek redress through informal discussions with the mentor, through the office of the dean, or through an executive officer of Thomas Edison State College.


Using someone else's work as your own is plagiarism. Although it may seem like simple dishonesty, plagiarism is against the law. Thomas Edison State College takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing will be severely penalized. If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > "Citing Sources.")

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else's. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

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