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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.


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Pier Concerned

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dear Mr. Ethics,

We just inspected a pier that has been converted into a nightclub.  The owner noticed sagging in the western most corner of the night club that extends about 80 feet in the water. Our investigation revealed severe undermining of that section of the pier due to the complete rotting of 4 pilings that are supposed to support that area of the pier.  We sat down with the owner and reviewed our report which states that under load the pier is in imminent danger of collapsing.  The owner seemed very upset and said he was going to take care of the situation immediately.  We have no further services to perform.  We are now wondering if we should submit our report to City officials.  Would that be a violation of our contract with the owner if we did that?


Pier Concerned



Dear Pier,


I do not think violating your contract is your primary concern.  It sounds like you have identified a situation that is a threat to public safety.  You need to contact the owner and see if he will be submitting the report to the City.  If not, I think ethics says that you submit the report.  Your greater duty lies with the protection of the public.  By submitting the report you are putting the City on notice of a public safety issue and by doing so you could prevent someone from getting hurt or worse.  You may lose a client by taking this action, and maybe face a suit for breach of contract but I think those possible consequences are much less than the possible consequence of not preventing someone from being injured or worse.




Mr. Ethics.

Tags:  Inspections  Public Safety 

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Plan Shy

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dear Mr. Ethics,


We have been contracted to reconstruct a landmark theater that was recently destroyed by fire. The theater was originally designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wrights who obtained a level of notoriety of their own.  The theater owner has found the original plans and has given them to use to use to reconstruct the theater.  One of my partners remembers hearing about a lawsuit involving a project architect’s and contractor’s use of someone else’s drawings.  Do you know anything about this lawsuit or have any ethical concerns about us proceeding as requested by the owner?


Regards, Plan Shy



Dear Plan,  


This is a familiar situation where ethics and the law converge.  It is unethical to use the plans and specifications of another design professional unless there has been provided written permission to do so.  Using the designs of another without their permission can also result in a copyright infringement claim.  Suits are regularly filed by either the design professional or their heirs over alleged unauthorized use of their plans.  You need to find out from the owner if the owner has the written permission of the original architect to use the plans.  You should also contact counsel to see if you also should get an indemnification from the owner for any copyright claims that may arise.  Ethics and law say you should not use someone else’s documents without knowing if there is permission to do same.


Regards, Mr. Ethics

Tags:  Ethics  Lawsuit  Planning 

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Ethically Punished

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dear Mr. Ethics,

We are involved in one of those government projects that provide us with a monetary reimbursement for every disadvantaged business we hire. We are now being threatened with project termination because we did something good. The owner of one of disadvantaged businesses died suddenly. The heirs were going to shut down the company so we stepped in to keep the employees working by paying them directly. We thought that was the ethical thing to do. The government says we assumed control of the company to keep that reimbursement going. I thought there were supposed to get good karma for acting ethically.

Regards, Ethically Punished


Dear Punished,

There is no guarantee you will be rewarded for acting ethically. That also should not be the reason you act ethically. Also, acting ethically is perceived differently by different parties. The employees see your actions as ethical but the government wanted to see you advise it of what was occurring. By not disclosing your actions the government views your action as unethical. Think in the broadest terms possible when faced with an ethical situation. I think I am a broken record because of my advocacy of advising a project owner of everything.

Tags:  Construction  Ethics  Government  Mr. Ethics 

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Revenue Projections

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear Mr. Ethics:


We have submitted a feasibility study regarding revenue projections of a parking garage to be built at a sports facility.  The project owner thinks are projections are too low because we based our study on scheduled events and not possible, non-booked events such as ice shows; kid shows; etc.  Our study will be the basis for municipal bonds to be sold to fund the garage’s construction.  Is it ethical for us to use non-scheduled events in our study?  Doing so would make the bonds more attractive.


Feasibility Stymied



Dear Stymied,

I think this a situation that does not initially involve ethics.  I think you need to consult counsel or the securities agency that will govern the bonds to determine what you can and cannot include in your study.  Since this study will support the sale of municipal bonds there should be specific rules or guidelines to follow.  If you cannot use possible income and the owner still pushes for same, then I think you have an ethical and legal decision to make.  In that situation I would decline the owner’s request.


Mr. Ethics

Tags:  Bonds  Legal  Revenue 

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Punishing the Tattletale

Posted By Mr. Ethics, Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dear Mr. Ethics,


One of my employees just reported to me that he overheard another employee speaking angrily and disrespectfully to one of our clients.  This is a violation of our ethics code.  While I am upset at the person who spoke improperly to a client, I am more upset by the tattletale.  I can’t stand rats and I want to punish that person more than the other.  One of our other codes is not to do wrong to another employee.  Can I also punish the snitch?

I Hate Stoolpigeons.


Dear Stoolpigeon,


A hallmark of an effective code of ethics is the ability of those witnessing a violation of the code a safe harbor in which to communicate that violation.  Why would you want to punish someone who obviously takes the code seriously?  If you punish your stoolpigeon you can consider your code to be as valuable as the paper it is printed upon.  Companies with hallow codes of conduct do not fare well over all.  Enron had a great code of conduct that it did not support or seriously promote.  We all know what happened to Enron.


Mr. Ethics

Tags:  Code of Ethics  Tatttletale 

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