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.



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 University's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

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

ISBN-13: 978-0136039754

  • Scrivo, T. P. (Ed.) (Current edition). New Jersey local government deskbook. Newark, NJ: New Jersey Law Journal Books.


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

Course objectives covered in this module: 2, 7

Course objectives covered in this module: 1, 7

Course objectives covered in this module: 3, 4

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:

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:

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to maintaining academic quality, excellence, and honesty. The University expects all members of its community to share the commitment to academic integrity, an essential component of a quality academic experience.

Students at Thomas Edison State University 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.

All members of the University community are responsible for reviewing the Academic Code of Conduct Policy in the University Catalog and online at

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State University 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 University insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty can take the following forms:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to helping students understand the seriousness of plagiarism, which is defined as using the work and ideas of others without proper citation. The University takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing are subject to discipline under the academic code of conduct policy.

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, or without identifying it as a direct quote, 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.

For examples of unintentional plagiarism, advice on when to quote and when to paraphrase, and information about writing assistance and originality report checking, click the links provided below.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

Writing Assistance at Smarthinking

Originality Report Checking at Turnitin

Disciplinary Process for Plagiarism

Acts of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism violate the Academic Code of Conduct.

If an incident of plagiarism is an isolated minor oversight or an obvious result of ignorance of proper citation requirements, the mentor may handle the matter as a learning exercise. Appropriate consequences may include the completion of tutorials, assignment rewrites, or any other reasonable learning tool in addition to a lower grade for the assignment or course. The mentor will notify the student and appropriate dean of the consequence by e-mail.

If the plagiarism appears intentional and/or is more than an isolated incident, the mentor will refer the matter to the appropriate dean, who will gather information about the violation(s) from the mentor and student, as necessary. The dean will review the matter and notify the student in writing of the specifics of the charge and the sanction to be imposed.

Possible sanctions include:

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