Public Corruption

Public Corruption

This morning the US Attorney for Indiana announced that he was ready and able to take decisive action against the practice of public corruption. This on the heels of last week’s indictments of three officials for public corruption in the State of Indiana. The worst case being a kickback scheme that netted the official $800,000 of kickbacks for approval of work not completed or work double billed and approved. The smallest case that resulted in an indictment involved a quid pro quo scheme where a public official voted for the award of a contract in exchange for gifts to his campaign committee.

I was a public official for over 30 years in Indiana. I was in a position to receive inappropriate funds or favors in exchange for some public action, usually the award of a contract. I was privately accused of taking a bribe twice in my career and I was actually offered a quid pro quo arrangement once. Though in fairness the quid pro quo arrangement that had been offered may have skirted the issue since no specific outcome was stated. In my case it was a matter of we will provide you a lavish gift, just so we can get to know you. I dismissed the offer immediately and that company never did business in a department I oversaw ever again. So you know the gift offered was a week of fishing, drinking and some female company on Lake Erie. Free of charge of course. Naturally I would want to go by myself and with a member of the offering company since we could expect the additional company to be very young and accommodating. Five young ladies were mentioned.

I immediately reported the offer to the local police and to my supervisor the Mayor, so in the subsequent five years of my tenure, that company (a professional company) was never invited to submit a proposal. In Indiana one does not bid professional services contracts (an antiquated state law) so we simply did not invite them to ever submit a proposal. So that little issue went away and of course no one ever offered again. Word travels quickly when a public official visits the police about an issue like this.

So as you might have gathered, I have no stomach for and no time for such offers of bribery. I would like to go on the Lake Erie adventure but I would have been a cheap date since we were set to award a bit over 3 million dollars of professional service contracts in the next six months. Money like that is, well worth a lot more than a week of, let’s call it, entertainment on Lake Erie.

I suppose that gets to my basic point, there is no amount of money worth a stupid bribe. I mean I cannot figure these idiots out. We had a prosecutor who took a campaign contribution of $2,500 in exchange for dropping objections that a female murderer be paroled. He is now serving 3 years in prison. All for $2,500? Give me a break who does that?

In my 30 plus years of public life I never once took money or favors for a decision. For me it is of course against the law, but more than that it is against my professional ethics. I subscribe to the Association School Business Officials (ASBO) statement of ethics and before that the America Society of Public Administration (ASPA) statement of ethics. It just blows my mind that anyone would do this and try to get away with it.

So it is oft said that every man (and woman) has a price, and I always said mine was 10 million and a private island of course with internet capability. That likely would have required a $300 to $400 million contract. Since I never participated with one of these so I guess I was safe.

Does that make me some kind of honesty crusader? I doubt it most folks I know were never offered or took a bribe. So I don’t think I was special.

Does this apply to diabetes? No not in the least. However, I am certain that some form of quid pro quo has been offered somewhere along the supply chain for the drugs we take. After all, the entire medical sector is one of the fastest growing, so it must be very competitive and competition usually yields some kind of untoward behavior. I hope that people who are making pricing, ingredient, developmental, administrative, or prescribing decisions along the way are influenced by the best for the price point. Not by 5 hookers and some fishing on Lake Erie.

I hope my doctor prescribes what is the best kind of medicine not what is being advertised. Good Grief Charlie Brown, can’t we just do the right thing?



Interesting, Rick. I too am suspicious of certain entities that affect us, and not just in private industry. There are NGOs and public bodies that affect PWD directly and about which I have profound reservations. But I won't go there. This isn't the time or the place.

Public officials in Oregon (of which I am one) must file a Statement of Financial Interest form with the Government Ethics Commission every April 15. In it you must list all sources of income, gifts, etc. When deciding an issue of public policy or sitting in a quasi-judicial capacity, you must also declare, on the record, all actual or potential financial conflicts of interest. Failure to do any of those things has very unpleasant consequences.

Like you, I just don't understand why people engage in the kind of behavior you describe. Not only do I find it distasteful and repugnant, it's insanely high risk in view of the stakes. But then, I don't understand why people bungee jump or skydive, either.