May 24, 2006
Basic ethics should need no instruction
Monterey County officials are seeking tighter controls
on the use of county credit cards in the wake of suspected
abuses by a county elected official. Is it necessary to
spend our tax dollars to train officials to distinguish
between right and wrong?
No, and how discouraging that adults need to be treated
like rebellious children! What kind of clarity is still
needed when credit cards are provided for business purposes?
When there is any question about whether an expense is
business-related, "business" credit cards should not be
used. A personal credit card should pay any "questionable" expense.
Later the charge can be reviewed by appropriate authorizing
agents who can determine legitimate reimbursement.
Youngsters understand right behavior. They know that
when they are asked to go into the store to purchase
food, they are not to squander the money on candy and
frivolous items. And, so do adults.
The Bracher Center's first two Integrity-Centered Attributes
make the point clearly:
- Character is consistency
between word and deed. Leaders must exhibit congruence
between what they say and what they do, as well as
what they say about what they did. An 8-year-old from
the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County told me
character was "what people do when no one is
watching." Credit-card abuse is wrong.
- Honesty is truthful communication
that is reflected by leaders - including public servants
- who would never intentionally engage in, or sanction,
Using business credit cards for non-business activities
is not solved with training. It is resolved at the point
of hiring and vetting. Stealing money using a credit
card is wrong and against the law.
Allow me to make the point of just how ridiculous this
issue has become. Enjoying humor and comedy, loving
to tickle my "funny bone," I often watch reruns
of a television comedy series called "Seinfeld." In one episode, the
goofy character George is confronted by his boss who asks George a question: "Did
you have sex, in your office, with the woman who cleans our offices, last evening?"
To which George asks who provided the boss with such
disturbing information. George's supervisor indicates
that the cleaning woman herself reported the incident.
With a long pause, George appears to ponder the dilemma and then says to his
upset boss: "Was that wrong?" Then, to add more fuel to the fire, George
continues with his idiocy: "I don't recall anything specific about a situation
like this ever being discussed in my employee orientation."
George was fired, immediately. Solid, powerful humor!
Irresponsible behaviors risk reputations and careers.