Test Yourself

by Bernard McCormick Wednesday, December 16, 2009 No Comment(s)

Recently the Miami City Commission passed an ordinance to authorize a class in ethics training for people entering public life. It passed unanimously, 3-0. There are five members on the commission but two did not vote because of conflicts of interest. They have been indicted.


One of the commissioners who voted for the resolution also has a mild conflict. He is regarded as ethical, and therefore has a built-in conflict of interest. Marc Sarnoff, you may recall, sort of blew the whistle on a fellow commissioner a few years back when he reported the commissioner was all but advertising a willingness to make some extra money on the job. Sarnoff, of course, had no choice but to vote for ethics training, although he observed that any 8-year-old who doesn’t understand what ethics means probably never will.


Although we generally confine our comments to events in the United States, this is too good to pass up. Especially because all classes need a test to show if the students learned anything. Accordingly, we have put together a little quiz.


  1. True or false: Conflict of interest means if a developer, who needs your vote on a controversial project, asks your advice on a $50,000 community outreach job to explain to folks how great his controversial development is. You then discover that another commissioner has been offered the same deal. True or false: Is this a conflict?


2.  Select one: In order to get the best possible person for the $50,000 outreach job, you recommend:

(a) your brother-in-law

      (b) your spouse

      (c) your pastor

      (d) all of these


  1. Select one: As a legislator, you get a lot of money for your local college from the state. You are then offered a $50,000 job teaching a course at the college, which takes three hours a week. To make sure everything is above board, you should seek a legal opinion from:

(a) your brother-in-law

(b) your spouse

(c) your pastor

(d) all of these


  1. You are an elected official angling for a contract to do some sludge. Although you abstained from voting because of a possible conflict of interest, you find yourself under suspicion. You should:

(a) delete all your e-mails

(b) tell your computer company your computer ate your stuff

(c) set your computer on fire

(d) tell you law partner’s mother to delete her e-mails

(e) all of these



  1. You are a public official invited on a boat ride to introduce a contractor to important people. After about 20 drinks you realize everybody but you, including the contractor, is with the FBI. You should:

(a) call your lawyer to arrange a plea bargain

(b) burst into tears

(c) dive into the river

(d) all of these


6.   You are a lawyer making $40,000 a year. You are offered $200,000 by a new firm, providing you gave back half of it in campaign contributions. Ethically, you should:


(a)   accept the job, and refuse to make contributions

(b)   accept the job, and call your lawyer to plea bargain

(c)   accept the job, and open a bank account in Morocco

(d)   accept the job, do what you are told, and when the feds arrive announce you are resigning to spend  more time with your family



  1. Which of these doesn’t belong?

a.      Rothstein

b.      Rosenfeldt

c.      Adler

d.      Gillie and Norman, P.A.



  1. You bill Medicare for $23 million for non-existent patients. Is this unethical?

(a)   Only if the IRS catches you

(b)   Only if it violates the nine commandments

(c)   Not if you split it with the patients

(d)   None of these


  1. You are asked for advice on an ethics class you have just approved. You propose a $50,000 contract for a consultant to run the program. Your choice is: 

(a)   your brother-in-law

(b)   your spouse

(c)   your pastor

(d)   all of these


  1. After giving your brother-in-law the contract for the ethics program, media question your impartiality. You then vote for a contract to hire an independent contractor to monitor the ethics czar. You award that contract to: 

(a)   your brother-in-law’s wife

(b)   your spouse

(c)   your pastor

(d)   your brother-in-law’s 8-year-old son


Of course, there is no way to evaluate your answers to these questions, so no grades are issued. That is because ethics are a personal matter, and there are privacy issues involved. To invade your privacy when it comes to stealing would, of course, be unethical. So grade yourself. Consider it an honor system.

Add new comment