Zoom Ethics: A Shocking Home vs Workplace Conflict

…and, in my opinion, a really, really, stupid one.

I’d say that this story should be in online glossaries to describe “pearl-clutching.” Also “virtue-signaling.”

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that Brian Akers, president of the Charter Oak Unified School Board in Covina, California, drank beer out of a bottle during a Zoom video board meeting last week, and everyone is FREAKING OUT!!! 

The video conference platform allows people to have  in-person meetings from their homes. People drink beer in their homes. They do it while talking on the phone, or messaging on Facebook. So, after finishing dinner and logging into the meeting, Akers took a few sips from the already opened bottle of beer without giving it a thought.

School board members were offended and aghast, apparently under the impression that it’s 1929.  Akers, they said, violated the board’s alcohol and drug-free workplace policy. “This is an isolated and unfortunate incident that was quickly addressed by members of our governing board, once it was brought to our attention,” board Vice President Gregg Peterson said in a statement. “As elected officials, we need to be transparent and hold ourselves accountable for our actions.” They “addressed” it by reprimanding Akers.

After all, he had to be held accountable……for engaging in a completely legal and normal act in his own home that harmed no one, that every single member of the school board has done themselves, probably countless times, and that everyone knows they have done it. Never mind: Greg Palatto, a psychologist and executive board member of the Charter Oak Educators Association said he was “taken aback,” and was in such shock that he couldn’t even process what he had seen.

“No way could that have been a beer, maybe a root beer.” he told reporters. “Then we look back on the live and yup, that’s a Pacifico!”

OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!


Palatto declared that Akers’ having a beer on camera sets a bad example for students, some of whom watch school board meeting videos for civics classes. “Kids are watching us,” Palatto said. And, as we all know, no kids have any idea that adults drink beer.

Some parents, like John Sitz,  who has three children who graduated from district schools, said that Akers should resign. “I would like to see him resign due to the fact that if it was anybody else caught drinking on the job, you would be walked off the premises at that point in time,” said Sitz. Walked out of his own home, you idiot? When unique circumstances force people to turn over their privacy and homes to employers, some reasonable leeway is called for, not rabid intolerance and hyperventilating over nothing, and a single swig of beer is nothing.

“I’ll apologize to anyone. It wasn’t intentional,” Akers said, descending into full grovel.

He should not apologize. He should tell his grandstanding colleagues to apologize to him. He should say, “Yup, I drank a beer during the meeting. I often drink beers at home, and I was home. I didn’t think about it, in part because I foolishly thought my colleagues on the board had common sense and a modicum of proportion and fairness. I was wrong. They don’t. They can have my resignation if they want it, but they won’t get an apology, because I did nothing wrong. Now I’m going to have another beer.”

But hey, I might be wrong. Let’s see what a poll shows…

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, Christmas Eve 2017: I TRIED To Find Upbeat, Inspirational Items Today, Santa, I Really Did…

Goooood MORNING!

1  I believe the correct term is “rude”...Social norms are necessary to maintain ethical standards, and they need to move quickly when conduct begins to resemble the “broken windows” that trigger urban decay. Years ago there was much complaining about solo diners talking on cell phones in restaurants, a gripe based on “ick” and not ethics. A diner’s table is his or her domain, and if one chooses to talk to a friend who is physically present or one who is elsewhere, that’s no other diner’s business unless the conversation breaks the sound barrier. However, walking around a store while having a loud, endless conversation via earpiece and phone is obnoxious in the extreme. That’s a public place, and the market is an important traditional locus for social interaction and community bonding. Technology is creating toxic social habits that are creating isolation and the deterioration in social skills, including basic respect for the human beings with whom we share existence. I almost confronted a young woman at the CVS last night who was cruising the aisles, laughing and dishing with a friend over her phone,  sometimes bumping into other shoppers in the process.

I wish I had. Next time.

2. I hadn’t thought of this, but it’s obviously a problem of longstanding. Local school boards are traditional gateways to public service and politics, but the previously typical citizens who become involved often have no experience or understanding regarding the basic ethics principle of public office. In San Antonio, for example, a jury acquitted San Antonio Independent School District trustee Olga Hernandez of conspiracy to commit honest service wire fraud and conspiracy to solicit and accept bribes, the result was dictated by her utter cluelessness rather than any doubts about what she did. Testimony revealed an inner-city school district where vendors and board members developed relationships that created conflicts of interest and compromised judgment. The vendors knew what was going on, but the school board members may not have.

Hernandez, for example, testified that she considered the plane tickets, complimentary hotel stays, jewelry, meals and campaign contributions she received from those connected with a local insurance brokerage firm doing business with the school district as favors and gifts from friends. Coincidentally, none of them had been her friends before she was in a position to help them make money.

The beginning of careers in public service is when ethics training is most crucial, not later. How many school board members are required to attend a basic ethics seminar regarding government ethics? I would love to know. Continue reading

How Should We Judge Second Apologies?

Sure, who wouldn't think this was funny coming from a member of your school board?

Sure, who wouldn’t think this was funny coming from a member of your school board?

The most important feature of apologies is that they express sincere and honest regret for the real harm done. If the first apology for misconduct fails that test, how much credence should a second attempt have? Does it negate the first apology completely? Ought it to be read and understood in light of the initial, unsatisfactory apology? Or should it be ignored completely as a public relations document crafted to achieve a result, rather than to express genuine contrition?

The case of Chris Harris, a board member for the Hooks Independent School District in the town of Hooks, Texas, provides a fascinating test.

Lat week, Harris posted an image of a Klu Klux Klan member with the caption, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”  to his Facebook page. The reaction to this was what almost anyone with a fully functioning cerebrum would expect, a category that Harris does not belong to, or at least did not when he posted it. Perhaps after shouting, “Doh!” or perhaps not, Harris rushed to repair the damage, publishing this apology:

Harris apology 1

Terrible apology! Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official of the Week: Texas State Board of Education Member Ken Mercer

The Future: Mercer High School Graduating Class, 2021

I think we should be able to agree on this: someone who is elected to a state school board should not be a) criminally ignorant and b) an idiot. Yes, I know that no one elected to any public office should be either of these things, but there is something especially offensive about the educational policy in a state being made by people who by all available evidence are either uneducated themselves or uneducable.

This naturally raises the matter of Texas State Board of Education member Ken Mercer (R-San Antonio). You think I am being too harsh on Mr. Mercer? Consider this statement on the topic of evolution, which Mr. Mercer considers a laughable myth: Continue reading