Annie Dookhan, The Nightmare Employee

Funny---she doesn't LOOK evil.

Funny—she doesn’t LOOK evil.

Every organization dreads the falsely competent employee who is secretly cutting corners and covering their tracks. Sometimes, they are embezzlers. Sometimes they are plagiarists, or journalists who fabricate quotes and only pretend to check sources.  Sometimes they are managers, CEOs, generals and leaders who are faking it, not providing oversight and diligently making sure that others are doing their jobs. These people are thieves, essentially: they are stealing their salaries under the false pretense that they know what they are doing and can be trusted. Often they are worse than thieves, because they sap their organizations of efficiency and momentum, secretly, stealthily. Needless to say, government bureaucracies are crawling with them, and they cost all of us money, security, hope and happiness.

Annie Doohkan is one of the worst of this breed I have ever encountered.  She was a state chemist in Massachusetts who intentionally mishandled evidence in drug cases, rushing results, falsifying them, certifying that she did tests when she really didn’t. Finally the lies became too much to hide, and she was exposed, but not before her perfidy forced the release of hundreds of convicts, raised new questions about thousands of other cases, and forced the state to spend millions of dollars. Apparently she had no greater motive for inflicting this carnage than her desire to give police and prosecutors what they wanted, and to appear to be fast, efficient and reliable. Continue reading

Ethics and Irony: the Postman Rings Twice for ACORN

“The Postman Always Rings Twice,” James M. Cain’s novel that is better known as a 1946 film noir classic starring Lana Turner and John Garfield, has a famous ironic twist. The story’s hapless drifter narrator escapes punishment for a murder he helped commit, but gets executed anyway for a death that was really an accident. Cosmic justice is done, if not legal justice. It turns out that the postman rang twice for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, too. Continue reading