Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Management

Committee Director

Berhanu Mengistu

Committee Member

Wolfgang Pindur

Committee Member

Jack Robinson


Ethics problems permeate all aspects of public agencies. This is especially true in urban areas where public workers have frequent interactions with large numbers of civilians. The results of unethical behavior often have very tangible effects with perhaps the most serious consequences being the deterioration of public services and the destruction of public trust.

This dissertation explores Milton Fisk's Group Ethics Theory which states that ethical behavior varies according to cohesive group membership. In order to investigate Fisk's theory, an ex post facto study was performed within a single urban university. The primary independent variable was group membership. Data was also collected on the variables of gender, age and longevity of service to the organization. The materials used in this research were a sociogram questionnaire and an ethics survey.

Analysis of Variance revealed ethical differences between cohesive groups within the same organization and even within individual departments. Men and women did not score differently on the ethics survey, but age and longevity levels did reveal statistically significant differences. This research confirms that ethical behavior differs according to cohesive group membership and in doing so makes the following recommendation: First, it is essential that managers understand that employees do not necessarily operate from similar ethics philosophies. Secondly, it is important that managers learn to identify cohesive groups and their influence on the ethical structure of the organization. Thirdly, employees should be given a formal voice in the formulation of the ethics principles which guide the organization. Like all research this dissertation answers some questions while raising still others. The sensitive nature of ethics data makes most public employees reluctant subjects at best.