THE BLOG

Ethics in Government: LOL

05/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

==Panel: Conference on World Affairs in Boulder==

"Ethics in Government: LOL"

I have a lawyer friend with a consulting business teaching government agencies and corporations about ethical practices.

Ironic, no?

But she is sincere and really wants to change public practice. Let's talk about public practice right here in Colorado. Right here at the University of Colorado.

Public officials who failed to follow ethical practices might cost the Colorado taxpayers one million dollars. That's right, this is a shout out to fired professor Ward Churchill.

OK, hate his guts, but I am a friend and colleague and think he got bad deal. It was a political witch hunt. C'mon you knew it all along. I don't always agree with Ward, but that's not the issue.

Now a jury has ruled that Churchill was improperly terminated. Never one to leave a scab unpicked, Ward has said the university can either rehire him with back pay or pay him a million dollars. That's your tax dollars you folks from here in Colorado. Who is to blame? Not Ward Churchill.

Before the panel I spoke to a mother of a daughter who was at CU when this whole mess erupted. Her daughter complained, that if people didn't trust students to explore new ideas and make up their own minds, why did they send them to college in the first place.

If public officials had followed the ethical guidelines for treatment of a state employee, none of this would have happened.

If public officials had followed the ethical guidelines for treatment of a tenured professor, none of this would have happened.

If public officials had followed the ethical guidelines for defense of free speech and free intellectual inquiry, none of this would have happened.

So I am giving public officials in Colorado and at the University a yellow warning flag (with the CU Bison on it) and I am placing this dollar bill on the flag to remind people that lack of ethics costs money. Tax money.

So if I can't convince you that ethics in government is a proper philosophical position, let me tell you that I have a lot of lawyer friends who make their living suing public officials for misconduct--criminal and ethical.

When it does not involve us directly, we all tend to look the other way when there is moral and ethical misconduct by government agencies. As an example, there is the repeated spying on political dissidents in Colorado.

And every day there are draconian police abuses in communities of color.

There are sweetheart deals to political buddies. And remember it was the alternative weekly newspaper in Denver that exposed the money trail that forced the cancellation of the Winter Olympics being held in Colorado.

So lets bring back ethics in government and not laugh out loud about them.

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If you are interested in the high stakes poker of intellectual discussions where disagreement is encouraged while civility is respected, drop in on the week-long Conference on World Affairs: