Ethics Alarms recently coined the useful term fick to describe the especially shameless individual who violates society’s ethical norms openly, publicly and flagrantly, without remorse or apology. It takes a certain kind of anti-social arrogance to be a true fick, with the gold standard established by Michigan lottery winner Leroy Fick, a millionaire who happily continues to collect food stamps because of a statutory loophole despite howls of indignation from his neighbors in one of the most fiscally-challenged states in the nation. Other ficks who have come to light include Hugh Heffner despicable ex-fiance Crystal Harris, who plotted to humiliate him at the altar to launch a reality show. Of course, there is longstanding Octo-fick Nadya Suleman, and celebrity fick Charlie Sheen.
Now lucky Prince George’s County in Maryland has a bona fide fick of its own. Prince George’s County Council member Leslie E. Johnson was a full partner in the efforts of her husband, ex-County Executive Jack B. Johnson, to use his position to acquire bribes and under-the table pay-offs. When he was arrested at their home last November, she was caught flushing a $100,000 check down a toilet and hiding nearly $80,000 in her bra. Despite the pending charges against her and her husband and the clarity of the case against her, Leslie Johnson refused to resign her post on the County Council. She had an “innocent until proven guilty” argument for staying in office and continuing to collect her $96,417 salary— a lousy argument, to be sure, but an argument.
Now, however, she has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit witness and evidence tampering, and is facing 12 to 18 months in prison. The decent, responsible, fair conduct would be for her to resign, but Johnson knows that nobody thinks that she is decent, responsible, fair, and the law that would allow the Council to kick her out requires a conclusion to legal proceedings. Thus she can continue to collect her salary by remaining on the Council until she is sentenced in October, which will add another $28,000 in gross income to the money she and her husband have already accepted in unmarked envelopes. This Leslie Johnson, full-fledged fick, fully intends to do.
Council members and the news media have been calling for her to resign since her arrest in November, and are redoubling those calls now; she doesn’t care. Prince George’s County is facing serious budget cuts that will cost Johnson’s neighbors services and jobs; she doesn’t care. Her constituents are getting no effective representation from their Council member, because she has been stripped of most of her duties; she still doesn’t care. The law says she isn’t officially a convicted felon until she is sentenced, so Leslie Johnson will squeeze every last penny out of County taxpayers that she can.
I hope—I will not go so far as to say I assume—that the judge will take her status as a fick into consideration when Johnson’s sentencing day finally comes. Surely such utter contempt for the needs and sensibilities of the community she and her husband betrayed should ensure a maximum sentence.
UPDATE: Leslie Johnson resigned today, a few hours after this was first posted. She will apparently continue to collect her salary until July 31, which is still fick-worthy, but quite a bit better than collecting it until October. Perhaps her lawyer pointed out that, as I suggested, looting the County treasury by drawing a paycheck until sentencing could well inspire the judge to give her some extra jail time.
Thanks to Lauren Larson, Ethics Scoreboard webmaster and designer, for the news.