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Editorial - Vacations with the boss

July 31, 1997

Last Friday Washington County's Ethics Commission ruled that three top county officials' April trip to the Master's Golf Tournament, with tickets obtained through the help of a firm doing business with the county, didn't violate the county's ethics ordinance. Because the trio paid what they believed was a fair price for the tickets - although much less than scalpers could have gotten - the commission said any disciplinary action would be inappropriate.

Provided that the elected official involved, Commissioners' President Greg Snook, abstains the next time this company's contract is up for renewal, that will apparently be the end of the matter. But the commissioners ought to consider another aspect of this situation.

Snook is president of the board that supervises the other two officials who went along on the trip, County Administrator Rod Shoop and Human Resources Director Alan Davis. Is it a good idea for county officials - elected or appointed - to go on vacation with those they supervise?

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We say this knowing that people who face adversity together - and this county board has certainly faced some tough issues - tend to circle the wagons and become closer to one another. When nobody else but the people you work with know how hard you try to do a good job, it's natural to close ranks with folks who won't judge you prematurely.

But sometimes harsh judgments are required, and if a supervisor and a staffer have moved beyond a good working relationship to a close friendship, will the needed medicine be administered?

We raise this issue not to suggest that there's no place for friendship in the workplace, but to remind everyone involved that a county official's first duty is to look at what's best for citizens, even if that means reprimanding a friend.

None of this is to say that anything improper of this sort has happened. It's just something to think about about the next time somebody suggests a vacation trip.

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