Tag Archives: apperance of impropriety

The T-Rex Escapes: Lessons Of The Washington Redskins’ Nepotism

I can’t exactly say, like Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malacolm in “Jurassic Park,” that I hate being right all the time…in part because I’m not. It sure is frustrating, however, to see an ethics crisis looming, write about it once, then twice, and still see so many people surprised when it arrives like an angry T-Rex. Thus today, I began the morning by pounding my head against the wall to read in the Washington Post sports section a column by Jason Reid with the headline, “Mike Shanahan, by hiring his son Kyle, has created an untenable situation.” Wait, what year is this? Shanahan, the coach of the Washington Redskins, that team with the name that we’re not supposed to say, hired his son Kyle as the team’s offensive coordinator many moons ago, in 2010. It was a terrible idea at the time, an example of classic nepotism that created an immediate risk of exactly what is occurring now, and perhaps the certainty of it, if the situation endured long enough.

Last season, when the Redskins swept to the NFC East Championship behind thrilling rookie QB Robert Griffin III, the ethics-challenged sports fandom here (Washington, D.C., remember) cited the success as proof that nepotism is an ethics boogie man, nothing more. This was pure consequentialism. As I concluded my post on the topic last January,

“This is rank consequentialism in its worst form. Nepotism is an unethical way to run any staff, company, team, business or government, unfair, inherently conflicted, irresponsible, dangerous and corrupting. It should be recognized as such from the beginning, and rejected, not retroactively justified if it “works.”I’m sure there were and are non-relatives of the Redskins coach who could have devised a successful offense with RG3 taking the hikes. The ethical thing to do was to find them and give one of them the job. The Redskins coach’s nepotism is just as unethical in 2013 as it was in 2012, 2011, and 2010.”

In “Jurassic Park,” the same day that chaotician Malcolm warns that the dinosaur park is so complex that a fatal loss of control is inevitable, the systems break down and he gets nearly gets eaten. The same year I wrote those words, ten months later, it’s Mike Shanahan on the menu as Jason Reid wrote these: Continue reading

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Consequentialism Alert At Redskins Park!

Washington, D.C. has a grand tradition of nepotism. Sometimes it works; it's wrong all the time.

Washington, D.C. has a grand tradition of nepotism. Sometimes it works; it’s wrong all the time.

A year ago, I wrote about the dilemma faced by Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who was mired in another terrible season with a failing offense engineered by his son Kyle, the team’s offensive coordinator.  Here we have the ethical problem with nepotism, I wrote…

“There is no way to tell what is happening or what the effect of the nepotism is, which is why all appearance of impropriety situations are toxic to trust; there is no way to tell whether the apparent conflict is causing real harm or not. When everything goes well, the doubts will be muted and there won’t be a crisis in public trust, but that is luck, and nothing more…Not only are the Skins losing, but the leaks have sprung in Nepotsim Central, where Kyle Shanahan is responsible. It was fully predictable, not that this would happen, but that it could very well happen, way back in 2010 when Mike Shanahan had the bright idea of hiring sonny boy. Not foreseeing this is a miserable failure to play ethics chess: when a choice is a good bet to create an ethics problem a few moves from now, don’t make it. Owner Snyder should have forbidden it; Kyle should have turned the job down.”

Ah, but that was then, and this is now. The vicissitudes of moral luck have struck again.  Now Kyle’s offense is working like a charm, thanks to the magic arm, legs and mind of rookie quarterback sensation Robert Griffin III. Now the ‘Skins are the NFL East Champions! Now Kyle is an offensive wizard, not a putz, and Coach Dad a visionary for hiring him. What’s the matter with a little nepotism? Never mind!

This is rank consequentialism in its worst form. Nepotism is an unethical way to run any staff, company, team, business or government, unfair, inherently conflicted, irresponsible, dangerous and corrupting. It should be recognized as such from the beginning, and rejected, not retroactively justified if it “works.”

I’m sure there were and are non-relatives of the Redskins coach who could have devised a successful offense with RG3 taking the hikes. The ethical thing to do was to find them and give one of them the job.

The Redskins coach’s nepotism is just as unethical in 2013 as it was in 2012, 2011, and 2010.

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The Washington Redskins and the Nepotism Trap

Bobby Kennedy was lucky. Kyle Shanahan isn't.

No leadership error embodies the appearance of impropriety more completely than nepotism, and, for good measure, it also creates an inherent conflict of interest and undermines fairness and integrity. Yet people continue to argue that it is not inherently unethical, and leaders and managers in all fields continue to walk into the nepotism trap. The fact that it doesn’t always snap shut is not an argument in its favor, for this is just moral luck; letting your kid play with matches in bed won’t necessarily burn the house down or kill him, but it’s still irresponsible.

Washington Redskins fans now have a painful lesson in nepotism’s drawbacks to guide their own decisions. As has been a routine event about now in the pro football season since hapless owner Dan Snyder became responsible for the team’s personnel, the Redskins season is imploding, and the head coach is on the griddle. This season that coach is Mike Shanahan, and the problem is his offense. The Skins were shut out Sunday, 23-0, and appear to have no quarterback, no offensive line, and no clue.

The team’s offensive coordinator? Kyle Shanahan, the head coach’s son. Now what? Continue reading

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“Hmmmm!”: Conflicts of Interest, Appearance of Impropriety, the National Parks Service

David Uberuaga, real estate whiz

David Uberuaga, then superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park sold his Ashford, Washington home to the owner of Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. for three times the property’s assessed value, while Uberuaga was charged with oversight of the concessionaire. Later, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, at one time Uberuaga’s immediate boss, saw that Uberuaga was appointed the superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park. This is especially interesting in view of the fact that Jarvis’s older brother, Destry Jarvis, has been a lobbyist on behalf of motorized river runners on the Colorado River, which runs through that park.

Hmmmm.

Do you agree with that? “Hmmmm”? Because in government ethics, “Hmmmm” is enough to indicate that the appearance of impropriety threshold has been crossed. The public isn’t supposed to think, “Hmmmm.” In this case, however, how could they not? To prevent “Hmmmm,” Jarvis needed to remove himself from any decision affecting a National Park that is being lobbied by his brother. To prevent “Hmmmm,” Uberuaga can’t have business transactions, especially mysteriously enriching ones, with a company that seeks contracts with a park that he manages. Continue reading

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