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Explain withholding information: When Is It Ethical or Unethical

The chapter assignments provide a scenario which encompasses an ethical question in a practical workplace setting. At the end of the reading, several questions are posed. Please answer the questions as your response. The duration of the response should be no longer than 2 pages.

Practicum 2.2. Moral Courage

Imagine you are an inspector in the Village Engineering Department and have the responsibility to inspect the sidewalks of residents whose streets are being resurfaced. The village policy is clear—residents who live on streets that are partially resurfaced must pay up to $1,000 per home for their sidewalks to be replaced. But, residents on streets that are fully resurfaced are not required to pay. Your job is to determine how much a resident who lives on a partially resurfaced street must pay to replace the sidewalk. The technical criteria to determine the cost difference between a full resurface and a

partial resurface are murky. Moreover, as the inspector, you have found it

frustrating to try to explain the system to residents who are impacted. Moreover, it is your strong belief that the required fee is too great of a burden, particularly for a large percentage of the residents who are retired. After years of expressing your frustrations to the director of the engineering department and having them ignored, you decide to take the matter directly to the mayor.

The engineering director does not find your conversation with the mayor

amusing. Indeed, he becomes quite angry with you for going around him to

the mayor and having his policy decision questioned. He instructs you to proceed with collecting money from residents and lobbies the mayor to support the current policy. You continue collecting checks and contracts from residents but decide not to cash them or process the contracts because you feel the mayor will rule in your favor. And, you are right. The mayor concludes the system is unfair, and resident contributions are eliminated for all sidewalk replacement projects.

On hearing the mayor’s decision, you return the unprocessed checks and

destroy the contracts. The director, not having budgeted for the change, instructs you to continue with the old policy for the upcoming construction

season and to initiate the new policy the following year. Concerned about

losing your job, you lie and say that you had not collected any money. You

feel it would be impossible to collect the money for the upcoming project

year as the change in policy had already been announced in the local press.

In the meantime, the director investigates and finds that the money had indeed been collected and subsequently returned. In his opinion, this action was contrary to a direct order. You admit lying but claim that you had merely 50 followed the wishes of the elected officials. The director gives you a pink slip, thus terminating your employment with the village. You decide to appeal the decision to the assistant administrator.


1. Imagine you are the assistant administrator. What should you do?

2. Was the director right to fire the employee for her behavior? Was the

director acting out of his anger at having his decision overturned?

3. Did the inspector exhibit moral courage? Did she act in the best

interest of the community?

4. Is it ethical to disobey an order when you feel it is the right decision?

Should the inspector be disciplined?

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