Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A collective standard necessarily leads to public scandal

Yet another city worker suspended, with pay. City manager Jeff Fielding has hired an outside law firm to investigate a public inspector "accused of placing public safety at risk".

A probe by the fire department and city hall led London chief administrator Jeff Fielding to hire the London law firm Hicks Morley to investigate the allegations.

Fielding said investigators were examining fire safety plans created by inspectors to make sure buildings are safe for occupants and firefighters.

The safety plans, required of most commercial and multi-residential buildings, enable inspectors to order changes that could cost tens of thousands of dollars, those in the field say.

Sources say among other things, city hall investigators had asked if the inspector used his position to profit by moonlighting to perform work required by safety plans.

[..] Changes ordered by an inspector can cost a building's operators small change or as much as tens of thousands of dollars, say operators of businesses that perform such work, London Fire Equipment Ltd., Advanced Fire Protection and Brennan Fire Equipment.

"I've had clients spend as much as $10,000 and I've heard of some spending $50,000 to $100,000," said Steve Almond of Advanced Fire Protection.
The details are scant, but the information contained in this article suggests either a) the accused is under investigation for ordering changes unnecessary under current requirements so he could make some extra cash on the side; or b) he offered to do the work which he was professionally required to order anyway, perhaps saving the owner some cash by undercutting the price of other contractors. However, the central theme of the Free Press article and Jeff Fielding's comments is public safety suggesting a third alternative: c) did the inspector thus fail to impose regulations in exchange for a bribe from the property owner?

As Jay Jardine so eloquently said in a comment here regarding mixed economies and the problem of sorting out right from wrong:

"It really is like trying to unscramble an egg."

Drizzten's comments on 'good cops' versus 'bad cops' are of interest in this context:
What is the difference between a good cop and a bad cop? I'd bet that most people would say the former doesn't use the position for personal gain, doesn't abuse or torment citizens for fun, doesn't take bribes, and applies the law objectively and fairly.

[..] The truth about cops is they have to apply the full panoply of law to everyone. From the generally legitimate prohibitions against murder, assault, and theft down to the foul restrictions on smoking in "public" buildings, running a business, and tax enforcement, the fundamental duty of police officers to protect the innocent from predators is increasingly swamped with the duty to shut down unapproved markets and socially unacceptable activity. Theoretically, the police aren't supposed to pick and choose which laws to enforce. However, you are as well aware as I am of people who praise some police as "good" specifically for letting them off the hook of some non-crime.

A bad cop might be bought off by a single mother desperately trying to avoid going to jail over possessing a baggie of weed. A good cop will either arrest her or demand she dispose of it and give her a warning. A warning of what? Of arrest.


Honey Pot said...

Pretty funny, even though it is the oldest scam in the books. Sort of mafia like, sort of paying for protection like. Being suspended with pay is ridiculous. I can see it, if when they are found guilty of the offense they have to reimburse the taxpayer, but only under that condition. They got a whack down there not working and being paid. Any news on when the human rights watchdog is returning to work? I wonder if chef ever filed a human rights complaint against being harassed by the human rights watchdog?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that people who own large buildings never bother to get fire insurance, and the banks from which they borrow money to buy those buildings never insist that they get fire insurance. Or fire insurance doesn't exist. Or fire insurers exist, but they have no idea what kind of fire safety equipment should be installed. That's why the government has to send the fire-cops around to, err, "help" building owners with fire safety issues.

Honey Pot said...

Good point Anony. You would think the fire insurance companies and the banks would make sure they kept things up to snuff. I wonder if you could make a complaint against owners of firetraps to their insurers. Might be the route to go. I am thinking tenants with slum landlords. Might be a faster route.