Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Doing the Right Thing

It's highly unusual, but occasionally an elected or appointed government official does the right thing: He tells his agency's legal counsel, "Thanks for your advice, but I'm going to do what's right, not just what's legal."

Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell is one of those rare public officials who has the character and integrity to do what he knows is right in spite of his agency's legal counsel telling him he doesn't need to. McDowell has recused himself from ruling on the proposed buyout of BellSouth by AT&T. Mr. McDowell, a former telecommunications industry lobbyist, received a letter from FCC General Counsel Samuel Feder telling McDowell he could legally participate in the deliberation and vote. Mr. McDowell said that regardless of the legality of his participation, he was personally uncomfortable taking part.

Mr. McDowell's refreshing decision to reject his agency's legal counsel's advice was reported in Monday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer in an Associated Press story headlined FCC commissioner won't vote on AT&T deal.

I wonder what would happen if more elected and appointed officials at all levels of government rejected the advice of paid consultants (attorneys) and did what was right, not just what they could legally get away with? Why, that could result in a pandemic of good governance worthy of the people's trust and confidence!


Anonymous Mainsail said...

Bill, as an attorney, I can tell you that a stellar example of "doing the right thing" is when Prosecutor Bill Douglas discovered exculpatory evidence which the defense had been claiming existed for years in the Donald Paradis murder case. Paradis had been convicted by Douglas' predecessor in 1981 who did not reveal this evidence to the defense. Douglas turned the evidence over and Governor Batt took Paradis off death row. This was not a politically popular decision by Douglas. It is unfortunate that these acts are unnoticed amidst the current noise. Douglas was praised by the 60 Minutes show as a prosecutor who did the right thing.
I enjoy your blog and have been an occasional browser.

11:50 PM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


Thank you for reading and commenting. Bill Douglas was, I believe, ethically and legally bound to divulge exculpatory evidence in the Paradis case (and in any other case as well). That doesn't take away from the fact that he did it, but what action did he take against his predecessor who had acted unethically and illegally? Did he aggressively pursue sanctions with the state?

My original post was to emphasize that public officials sometimes need to choose not to follow an attorney's advice. I refer mainly to city council members here in Coeur d'Alene whose conscience may tell them they should not deliberate and vote on an issue because of a perceived conflict of interest, so they seek advice from the city attorney who may correctly tell them they legally can. I do not respect elected or appointed officials who ignore their own conscience then try to justify their personal character failure by saying, "But our attorney said we could."

6:52 AM, December 19, 2006  

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