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‘I am not a crook’

Thoughts from Behind the Pressline

Perception, intention, power, arrogance, authority and many other character qualities become a part of actions that, to one person, cross the line yet to another do not. Richard Nixon proclaimed he was “not a crook” many years ago from the White House after he was confronted with accepting blame for the actions of staff in his administration.

This last week we saw members of the Internal Revenue Service flaunt their character flaws in an attempt to shield the truth. Not unlike the twisted version of the truth coming out of the Jodi Arias trial, the House Oversight Commission asked former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman why he visited the White House 118 times during the period in question — his wise crack response was “for the annual Easter egg hunt.”

When IRS Supervisor Lois Lerner, the administrator at the center of the scandal, made her “I’m not a crook” statement then took the fifth it felt like government thumbing its nose at the people who should be able to get to the truth. Lerner earns $177,000 per year and when asked for her resignation refused to resign. At the time of this writing she was put on “paid” administrative leave.

It’s difficult for me to understand or accept the excuses coming out of Washington regarding these big scandals. It seems completely unbelievable and unacceptable that department leaders, cabinet secretaries or the President can brush off these events simply by claiming they have no knowledge of the activities and so it’s time to move on past these minor bumps in the road.

In our publishing business we employ more than 100 individuals. When one of those employees makes a mistake, and mistakes do happen, I am the person who must accept responsibility and make restitution. Additionally, if I don’t determine what happened, chances are good it will happen again. If an employee, through their own fault causes damage to equipment, hurts another employee, or even themselves I am the person who is responsible. I can not force that employee to pay for damages caused even if I directly told the person not to do what they did or they demonstrate careless behavior. Sure, I can terminate their employment but in the end I’m still responsible for their actions.

Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at dan@newmarketpressvt.com or dan@denpubs.com.

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