Message from Senate: Why bother?
December 6, 2004
What message did the Nevada Senate send with its censure of Controller Kathy Augustine?
It depends a great deal on who you are.
To other elected state officials: No matter how publicly embarrassing it may be, stick to your story and eventually your political cronies will bail you out.
Make sure you have some plausible deniability for using state employees and office machinery on your re-election campaign, because that will give them enough leverage to find some excuse to let you off the hook.
To state employees: No matter what you’re told by your bosses to do, just shut up and get the job done – even if that task appears on the surface to be unethical and illegal.
If you must speak up, make sure you keep no documentation of the abuses, and don’t tell anybody else beforehand. Otherwise, it’ll look like collusion.
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Also, be prepared to be labeled a “disgruntled employee.” If you were anything else, you’d still be there happily working away, wouldn’t you?
To the taxpayers of Nevada: Hey, what’s a little misappropriation of state office personnel and equipment in the context of the overall picture?
What should be really important to taxpayers is that the work of the Controller’s Office got done, and that the controller who was doing the job got re-elected with the help of people and equipment you were paying with your tax dollars.
For that, the Senate told Augustine, she should be ashamed.
She wasn’t, of course. She said she had been “vindicated.”
And she was. So was every public official who bends the rules, who looks the other way when honesty and ethics are on the line, who treats his or her employees like serfs in his or her own piece of the kingdom.
The losers here are the public-officeholders who stick to the highest standards of decency, integrity and professionalism. To them, the message from the Nevada Senate was: Why bother?