The Ethical Planning Practitioner (Paperback) book cover

The Ethical Planning Practitioner

By Jerry Weitz

© 2015 – APA Planners Press

160 pages

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Paperback: 9781611900811
pub: 2016-02-07
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About the Book

If a local college gives a city planner tickets to a sold-out football game, is it wrong to take them — even if the planner pays? Should a planning consultant bid on a project that has a clearly unrealistic timeframe? Can a planning director moonlight for another agency? For practicing planners, potential ethics violations abound, and the eye of public scrutiny never blinks.

Planners need a guide, and now they have it: the first guidebook based on the current revision of the AICP (American Institute of Certified Planners) Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. The Ethical Planning Practitioner presents 76scenarios, all real-life dilemmas based on the code’s rules of conduct. Each scenario comes with tools to help planners explore the answers on their own, in a training session, or in a classroom.

When you buy the guide through APA, you get something more: a recording author Jerry Weitz, FAICP, made with former AICP President Dwight Merriam, FAICP. Together they review three short videos, talk about the ethical situations they represent, and suggest the actions planners could take. The recording comes with a PowerPoint presentation that makes it a powerful teaching aid.

This vital handbook looks at everyday ethics the way planners need to see them, in black, white, and shades of gray — but most of all, clearly. The Ethical Practicing Planner will not only instruct but inspire planners to strengthen the public’s trust.


"Weitz is masterful at discussing the nuances and subtleties of ethics in actual practice. This one volume is essential for any AICP member or aspirant."

— Daniel J. Marcucci, AICP, PhD, Fellow and Instructor, Virginia Tech

"This handbook is a resource that can be used again and again to learn, argue, and discuss. Rather than simple answers to ethical challenges, it gives us questions worth considering."

— Martin Wachs, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, UCLA

"To be effective, planners need a good understanding of how to apply the AICP Code of Ethics in their day-to-day work. Thank you, Jerry, for a valuable tool for all of us!"

— Sue Schwartz, FAICP, Planning Director, Greensboro, North Carolina

Table of Contents


The AICP Code and APA Ethical Principles in Planning

Principles to Which We Aspire

Rules of Conduct

The Ethical Conduct of Planners

Guidance for Ethical Decision Making

Scenarios: Introduction and Guidance

Number of Scenarios per Training Session

Selecting Scenarios

For Individual Planners

For Ethics Session Organizers


S 1. Disagreement With Supervisor’s Recommendation

S 2. Conflict With Supervisor

S 3. Proposed Change to First Redraft of Official Zoning Map

S 4. Protection of Environmentally Sensitive Land from Development

S 5. Community Development Block Grant Program Project Work Scope

S 6. Politically Influenced Population Projections 1

S 7. Minority Planner Acts as Advocate for Minority Neighborhood

S 8. Planners Oppose Their Own Department Director at Public Hearing

S 9. Recommendation for Housing Trust Fund Disapproved by Board

S10. County Jail Proposal in City Center Neighborhood

S11. University Professor Subcontracts for Work Involving State or University Funds

S12. Junior Planner Assists Development Applicant

S13. Potential Conflict With Public and Nonprofit Roles

S14. Investment Opportunity in Jurisdiction of Work

S15. Planning Consultant Considers Planning Commission Appointment

S16. Public and Private Client Conflict

S17. Public Planner Connects With Development Community on LinkedIn

S18. Consistency in Zoning Administration

S19. Planning Consultant Buys Lunch for Public-Sector Clients

S20. Administrative Discretion: Recommending a Grant Recipient

S21. Politically Influenced Population Projections 2

S22. Consulting With Municipality Immediately After Quitting

S23. Contractual Requirements of State for Land-Use Planning Grant

S24. Recommendations Regarding Nearly Identical Rezoning Requests

S25. Accessory Apartments Recommended as Affordable Housing

S26. Disadvantaged Group Input

S27. Affordable Housing Neighborhood

S28. Urging a Modification of Exclusionary Zoning

S29. Preparing Estimates of Transit Ridership and Revenue

S30. Planner Chooses Between Planning Firm and Minority Student Intern

S31. Authority Director Evaluates Proposals

S32. Director Admonishes Planner for Excessive Volunteer Work

S33. Use of Technology in Citizen Participation

S34. Regional Agency Engaged in Multiple Planning Functions for County

S35. Planner Posts Statement on Social Media

S36. Disclosure of Potential Environmental Impacts

S37. Information Shared With Neighborhood Group

S38. Planning Director Excludes Junior Planners’ Observations

S39. Reporter Requests All Information on Pending Development Project

S40. Utility Company Maintenance Facility

S41. Service on Consultant Proposal Review Committee

S42. Planner Asked to Recommend Professionals

S43. Use of One Firm’s Product by Another Firm

S44. Planner Prevented from Speaking Publicly in Opposition to Transportation Plan

S45. Private Correspondence on Local Government Email System

S46. City Manager Urges Change of Planning Staff Recommendation

S47. Preparing Grant Applications for Free in Anticipation of Project Award for Fee

S48. Executive Director of Council of Government Has History of Suspect Practices

S49. Regional Planner Seeks Elected Position

S50. Part-Time Consultant and Full-Time City Planner Job

S51. Planning Director Opposes and Testifies in Court Against Rezoning Decision

S52. Property to Be Rezoned Touches Property Owned by Family Member

S53. Information Leaked Regarding Plans for Parking Deck Downtown

S54. Structure With Historical Value About to Be Demolished

S55. Council Member Shares Opinion Privately About Upcoming Rezoning

S56. Preapplication Meeting With Developer

S57. Archaeological Site Discovered in Environmental Impact Review

S58. Consultant Without Prior Experience Pursues Work on a Fiscal Impact Study

S59. Invoicing for Work Not Yet Performed

S60. Unrealistic Work Deadline in Request for Proposal

S61. Planner Writes Letter to the Editor

S62. City Attorney Conflict

S63. Use of Primary Employer’s Equipment for Consulting Assignment

S64. Developer and Public-Sector Planner Have Lunch Together

S65. Valuables Found on Pending Development Site

S66. Publication of Client’s Report

S67. Public Funds Used to Clean Clothing

S68. Proposal to Travel for Training

S69. Public Planners Offered Free, Hard-to-Get Tickets

S70. Consultant Invites Potential Clients to Dinner

S71. Real Estate Investment Along Proposed New Highway

S72. Influencing Land-Use Plan Designation for Real Property You Own

S73. Inspector/Planner Promotes His Own Inspection Company

S74. Planner Evaluates Prior Employee for Employment Elsewhere

S75. Planning Director Disciplines Junior Planner

S76. Planner Responds to AICP Ethics Charge of Misconduct


Suggested Interpretations of the Code

Accept an assignment

Adequate information

Authority to make a binding, final determination

Decision makers


Other professionals

Planning issues

Planning process

Solicit prospective clients or employment


The Ethical Planning Practitioner


Appendix A: AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct

Appendix B: State Ethics Laws Applicable to Local Government Employees




About the Author

Jerry Weitz, FAICP, is principal of a planning and development consulting firm based in the Atlanta area. From 2010 to 2015, he was director of the urban and regional planning program at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. In a career spanning more than three decades, he has worked with cities, counties, state agencies, planning consulting firms, developers, attorneys, nonprofits, citizen advocacy groups, and universities. The issues he has confronted bring real-life contexts and sure guidance to The Ethical Planning Practitioner.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Business Ethics
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Affairs & Administration