Mr. Ethics

Ever find yourself in a sticky ethical situation? Mr. Ethics has your back! Mr. Ethics is here to take your questions and give you his input on how to best deal with your situation. Have a question for Mr. Ethics? Send it to and he may respond to you here on the Mr. Ethics Blog.

Mr. Ethics - July 2017

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Monday, July 10, 2017

Dear Mr. Ethics,


We recently submitted a bid for the construction of a new bridge.  In accord with the bid documents all bids were to be evaluated on a point system.  The public owner was to evaluate each bid according to its conformance with plans and specifications.  Another team was going to assess the aesthetic aspects of the proposed bid design.   At the bid opening we were advised that was decided to combine the evaluation teams.  Not only is this a change in the bid process but it may also disadvantage one or more bidders in the way the points are calculated.  I think the owner’s actions are unethical and may also be illegal.  Should I seek legal action or advise the owner that its action is unethical?


Sincerely, Undecided


Dear Undecided,


Only you and your counsel can determine whether to take legal action.  However, ethical actions can have legal implications.  There is no reason you cannot pursue legal and ethical actions at the same time if reason exists for doing each.  Changing bid procedures is definitely unethical and may be a violation of public bidding laws.  At the very least you should lodge a complaint with the owner and consult counsel regarding your legal rights.  


Sincerely, Mr. Ethics.    


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Mr. Ethics - March 2017

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Dear Mr. Ethics,


 My company does a lot of public works projects.  For the last three years the State’s Director of Construction has asked me to donate to his kids’ little league teams and buy Girl Scout cookies.  I am glad to do both but I recently saw a newspaper article about a service provider being sued by the state for bribing government officials.  The provider sent a portion of every purchase order amount to the government employee who gave them the purchase order.  Do you think my donations and cookie purchases fall into the same category?  As far as I know everyone in my position buys the cookies and donates to the teams.  I am not doing anything different from anyone else.  It’s just like the other donations I make to my church, the children’s hospital and organizations committed to curing cancer. 


Sincerely,  Donator


Dear Donator,


 The little league donations and cookie purchases you describe do not fall within the category of the other donations you make because they involve a government employee. First, you need to check your state law to determine if your little league donations and cookie purchases are legal. Second you need to determine if you are purchasing cookies and making the donations in order to gain some benefit or advantage from the government employee then your actions are unethical.  Similarly, if you think the government employee is compensating you for donations and purchases, even if you making them with no remuneration in mind, your actions are still unethical.  If neither of the aforementioned conditions exist, but state law prohibits the donations and cookie purchases, you still need to stop despite the actions being ethical.


Regards, Mr. Ethics    


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