Ethics Case Study
Students will submit a Case Study related to an ethical situation facing a public administrator (hypothetical). Students will answer several questions in an essay format between 3 and 5 pages in length (typewritten, 12-point font, double line spacing). The page requirement refers to text, not the title page or Reference page(s).
Choose any one of the following three scenarios and answer the questions in a 3 – 5 page, double-spaced paper that follows APA guidelines for manuscripts.
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Scenario A: (Borrowed from the Minnesota Management and Budget – Ethics in State Government, Supervisor Development Core)
In your capacity as a supervisor you are informed by top management in your agency that there will be significant layoffs in your agency which will be announced in two weeks. You are further informed that this information should NOT be communicated to the employees you supervise until it is officially announced by the agency in two weeks. A close friend of yours in another division is scheduled to close on a real estate transaction for a new house at the end of the week. You know that your friend needs the income from their current job to make these new house payments.
1. What course of action do you take regarding this situation?
2. Can you pass on this information to your friend?
3. What ethical values are involved in this situation?
4. What concepts from class readings are applicable in this scenario?
Scenario B: (Borrowed from the Minnesota Management and Budget – Ethics in State Government, Supervisor Development Core)
You are a District Office Supervisor, directly supervising parole agency supervisors, each of whom supervises parole agents. One of the duties of parole agents and parole agent supervisors is to write pre-sentence investigations (PSI) reports. These PSI reports are used by the District Court judges in making their sentencing decision about convicted felons. Currently, the prisons are overcrowded, the county jails are full, and the number of convicted felons is steadily increasing. One new method of sentencing used for non-violent offenders is electronic monitoring. An electronic sensor can be attached to the convicted felon’s leg and the monitor alerts the police if the felon exceeds the geographic range set by the Judge and parole agent. Parole agents and supervisors have been increasingly recommending the use of electronic monitoring as a way to address the overcrowding of the prisons and jails. Some of your parole agents and supervisors realize that electronic monitoring devices are a growing industry, and several of them have purchased stock in one of these businesses in the state. You have been offered an opportunity to buy stock in this business also – at an attractive price.
1. What do you do personally?
2. What do you do as a supervisor?
3. What ethical values are involved?
4. What concepts from class readings are applicable in this scenario? Why?
Scenario C: (Borrowed from Judy Nadler at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University)
Mike Monroe and Derek Wilson were roommates and fraternity brothers at a small mid-western college. Both were political science majors, so they saw a lot of each other, both in academic and social situations. Derek’s wild and outrageous pranks, excessive drinking, and one-night-stands earned him the reputation of playing “fast and loose” in his personal life. He had been caught plagiarizing twice, but was only given a warning. Still, he was personable and a good friend, so upon graduation the two vowed to stay in touch.
After their fifth college reunion, where Derek became so drunk he needed to be hospitalized, Mike decided to break off communication. His only updates on his former roommate came through the fraternity alumni magazine, where Derek submitted updates on his career. He had a master’s degree in public administration, and had been working for cities in several states. His job in each jurisdiction lasted only two or three years, but each new job sounded like a promotion. Mike figured Derek had finally “grown up” and was happy to learn of his success.
Mike had also been successful. He moved to Utah, and worked as a field representative for a state legislator. He fell in love with public service and was elected to the city council. He was now in his second term as mayor, and was overseeing a new “culture of ethics” program in River Falls, stressing values in addition to the rules outlined in the code of ethics.
It had been 10 years since they last connected, so Mike was surprised to get an invitation from Derek to be a friend on two separate Facebook accounts. Mike agreed, and first went to a personal account featuring facts about Derek’s education, work history, and family. The second Facebook page, with privacy controls restricting access, was for a group called “Derek’s Doghouse.” The other “friends” on the site included some fraternity brothers, but also a collection of men Derek had met or worked with over the years.
Derek founded the group, according to the site, “ to celebrate the good life: wine, women, and wild times.” The wall postings chronicled wild weekends in Las Vegas, gambling on sporting events, and exploits with women while on business trips. The 20 or so members were candid, unedited, and occasionally profane in their comments, bragging about their bad behavior. The stories were often accompanied by compromising photos. Within days of the Facebook contact, Derek called Mike to ask for a job recommendation. He was submitting his application for the assistant city manager position in River Falls and wanted Mike to put in a good word. “I’ve never asked for a favor,” Derek said, “but this job is perfect for me and my family. I really hope you will be able to influence the HR director and city manager to hire me.”
How should Mike proceed? Should he tell Derek he doesn’t feel comfortable making the recommendation? Should he tell Derek that River Falls is not a “good fit” for him?
Does he have an obligation to alert the HR manager and/or city manager of the way Derek conducts his personal life?
Is Derek’s secret personal life an indication of his values? Does it matter?
What concepts from course materials are applicable to this scenario? Why?
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