“I was working for the Dept. of Defense in the contracting department in a Middle Eastern country. More than $250,000 worth of equipment ordered by U.S. Air Force agencies was held in customs on the other side of the country port. The politics of the time were such that the United States did not want to rock the boat.
As a contracting officer, I thought I’d figure out how to get the equipment released. One requirement had to do with a release document from a high-level U.S. official that was notarized. The document was time sensitive. One of the finance offices fell through on their end, and had to delay by one day. Of course, the document would now be null and void, and guess what? The U.S. official was no longer available.
I had no authority to do this but I called the legal office on the West end and said ‘redo the whole document, whatever you have to do, and change that date for the next day.’ He asked a bunch of questions; he was an attorney after all. So, I instructed him on how to cut, paste and copy, and redo the official seal. In essence we falsified the document.
I felt I had no choice. The process of negotiations to even get to the point of getting the equipment out of customs was over several months. Lining up and coordinating all of the agencies took a very long time, and I wasn’t about to blow it on a stupid legal document.
You may ask all the what-ifs. But there are only two of us that know that the document was falsified — myself and the attorney. I received an award for my work in getting the equipment released. I did not pay for those goods, the U.S. taxpayers did. And if it were my money, I’d have done the same. If I had not been able to secure the release of the equipment, it was going to go into the Middle Eastern country’s local market. They were not going to return it to the vendor.”
____ The case study was obtained from Richter and Burke, 2010_____
Do you believe it is ever ethically correct to falsify a legal document? (2 points)
Are there any instances where falsification of a legal document could lead to the greater good? Make sure to explain. (3 points)
Apply utilitarian theory to analyze and explain whether the public administrator in the case study above made an ethical decision. Make sure to fully assess all who are involved and potentially impacted before providing your detailed explanation of how and why it was or was not an ethical decision according to the theory. (5 points)