Ethics and Christmas

Last year after the Christmas holiday, I posted something warm and fuzzy. See January 5, 2014. Not this year! My holiday was lovely, but this incident at work was a nuisance:

My colleague from the Mail Room dropped a package on my desk and apologized. “I couldn’t refuse it from FedEx. It has your name on it…” We both looked at it with distaste.

Godiva chocolates. Three pounds of Godiva chocolates. I am so conditioned by the Ethics Office that I didn’t even salivate. I also refrained from opening the card and seeing who sent it until I had an Ethics Office employee on the line.

I was directed to open the card. The chocolates came from a company that does business with the College. No employee can accept ANY gift from such an entity. Never mind that I personally have no statutory or financial authority within the College, being, in fact, the part time occupant of a temporary position.

I had to follow “the procedure”. I was directed to donate the chocolates to a non-profit organization, like a nursing home. I’m pretty certain all the nursing homes nearby are profit making, but I selected one.

I drove to the nursing home, visited the manager and donated the loot, collecting a business card to document my visit. As required, I wrote a letter to the giver of the gift. “Thank you for your thoughtful gift, but…” A copy of my letter went to the Ethics Office, along with the business card.

I got through this in two hours, possibly an ethics compliance speed record. But certainly I could have done something far more useful with my working time!

I had to put up with wisecracks from fellow employees who said they would have followed the past practice of group consumption of food gifts, followed by total destruction of the packaging and total denial of receipt. “Chocolates? What chocolates?” Chocolates can disappear at the speed of light. But we all have to be above suspicion.

If I REALLY want chocolates, I will buy them for myself. Maybe what I want is a good stiff drink.

All this would be pretty trivial, except that I am treated daily to reports of the behavior of the Governor of New Jersey. He accepts football tickets and watches games from the fanciest boxes. Considering that pro football does major business in New Jersey, at the publicly financed Meadowlands Complex, is this not a conflict of interest?

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