Joseph Ellin's Commentary on "Conflict of Interest serving on a Government Committee"
This case is a bit unusual in that the conflict of interest
here evidently occurred through trying to comply with state
law. The law requires that two seats on the waste planning
committee be held by industry representatives, but the two who
are appointed, Matthews and Parkinson, are connected with a
plan to site the county landfill in Barker township, where the
residents charge conflict of interest. It is not clear in what
the conflict consists, but presumably the accusation is that
Matthews and Parkinson's firms will benefit if the dump is
situated in Barker.
Conflict of interest is easy to charge and hard to disprove.
Often it seems that appearance of conflict amounts to nothing
more than someone saying that there is such a conflict. Since
passions about things like landfills are apt to become intense,
it is politically foolish, even if not necessarily ethically
objectionable, for anyone to sit on a planning board where even
the whisper of conflict of interest is possible. There must be
other industry representatives who don't have proposals before
the County Waste Board. Neither Matthews nor Parkinson want to
resign. They seem to have made it a point of personal pride not
to succumb to pressure which they consider unjustified. But it
is a mistake to allow one's sense of honor to stand in the way
of getting the task done. These accusations will poison the
board's deliberations and cause the decision to drag on
forever. Neither Matthews nor Parkinson should serve on the
board. They have made their defense, which is their right, and
they need not admit any culpability. Now they should resign for
the public good.
Cite this page:
"Joseph Ellin's Commentary on "Conflict of Interest serving on a Government Committee""
Online Ethics Center for Engineering
National Academy of Engineering
Accessed: Monday, March 10, 2014