Planning Ethics in 2016

This is the first in a series of periodic blog posts on planning ethics issues. Members of the American Institute of Certified Planners are bound by the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, which — among other things — requires an annual report on ethics activities, summarized here.


The most common ethical issues raised last year by planners were “conflicts of interest,” “honest and fair dealing,” and “respect for confidentiality.”

These findings are part of the AICP Commission’s Annual Ethics Report, which summarizes ethical misconduct complaints, requests for informal ethical advice, and actions by the AICP Ethics Committee in 2016.

Questions about potential conflicts of interest — i.e., Rules of Conduct 3, 5, 6 in the Ethics Code — were posed by one of six ethical inquiries in 2016. Also common — one of every eight questions — were queries about honest and fair dealing (Rules 11, 17, 18, 19, and 2) and respect for confidentiality (Rule 7).

Other findings from the Annual Ethics Report:

  • Of the dozen misconduct complaints received last year, five involved the misuse of the AICP credential by individuals who were not members. In each instance, after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Ethics Officer, the individual stopped using the credential.
  • Six ethical misconduct cases were dismissed by the APA/AICP Ethics Officer, after an investigation of the charges found no ethical violations. In one case, the complainant appealed to the Ethics Committee, which upheld the dismissal.
  • One ethical misconduct case, involving abuse of position and a conflict of interest, resulted in a disciplinary action (Letter of Admonition) against the planner.
  • Six of the misconduct complaints were filed by citizens and/or members of a plan commission, three by planners or an APA chapter, and three anonymously. (Based on recent Ethics Code revisions, anonymous complaints are no longer permitted, although the complainant may request confidentiality.)
  • One formal Advisory Opinion was issued by the AICP Ethics Committee, based on a request by an APA state chapter regarding conflicts of interest on the chapter board (see report).
  • The AICP Commission approved major procedural revisions to the Ethics Code, based on recommendations from the Ethics Commission and review by membership.
  • The distribution of inquiries was fairly uniform across the United States, with almost an equal number from each of the six electoral regions (see map below). Most of the states with higher numbers also have a higher number of APA members.

If you would like to seek informal ethics advice from the Ethics Officer, please leave a confidential message at 312-786-6360. If you would like to file a misconduct complaint against an AICP member — or someone who is misrepresenting themselves as an AICP member — please complete an ethical misconduct form, which may be downloaded at www.planning.org/ethics.

Top image: Thinkstock photo.


About the Author
James Peters, FAICP, was appointed the AICP Ethics Officer by the AICP Commission in April 2015.

February 24, 2017

By James Peters, FAICP