Published May 10, 2008
I've been reading through the investigation report of the attorney general's office. I have tried to avoid paying attention to the whole affair, but a friend forwarded me a PDF of the report, and I finally broke down and read through it. I was hoping the Animal House comparisons were exaggerated, but it seems they are all-too apt. When a section of the official report is titled "The Sex Toy," you know you're in trouble.
In school, we learn about math, science, history, law, and all the other necessary factual subjects, but do we learn enough about how to conduct ourselves in the workplace? What kind of training does one need, apart from plain common sense (which, honestly, should have been sufficient here) to comport oneself with dignity and modesty? Did Anthony Gutierrez need a mentor to demonstrate that drinking and driving don't mix? Did he lack positive female role models to teach him how to treat women respectfully?
One can look to European politics where extra-marital affairs are seemingly de rigueur, then shake one's head at the gotcha press treatment lavished on each sordid escapade in the states. From Bill Clinton to Newt Gingrich to Gary Condit to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Jack Ryan to Jim McGreevey to Mark Foley to Larry Craig to Eliot Spitzer, we've had no need for the Playboy Channel if we just rely on Fox News to keep us titillated. Let's recognize that these public officials have not been elected high holy representatives. They are flawed men like so many others walking the earth, and when power and money enter the picture, their judgement gets clouded.They have not pledged to abstain from drinking, smoking, and infidelity. These are personal matters that, if handled discreetly, have no relation to their office.
On the other hand, if I were having an affair with a colleague—inter-office fraternization frequently being the case in these stories—I would be fired. It's not for the morals of the thing but because it's a distraction from the business that needs to get done. When the individual doing the dalliance is the boss, the situation is a bit different, in that he must answer to the people. The attitude of the people typically is that they don't want you to be having more fun than they are.
It's one thing to defend Dann by saying he didn't apparently break any laws. He's guilty chiefly of assembling an unprofessional and ineffectual staff. However, there must be accountability for getting one's job done, and it's not clear with all of these extra-curricular shenanigans whether a productive work environment was maintained.
That's the bottom line of the whole mess in Dann's office: It has created a distraction from the important work that needs to be done. Can the atmosphere be corrected and the right team assembled, or is Dann the right leader for the job after all?