Selling fake apple juice to babies seemed a harmless way to make ends meet. After all, Beech-Nut executives rationalized, there was a budget to meet. And besides, said a company executive, “So suppose the stuff was all water and flavor and sugar? Why get so upset about it? Who were we hurting?”
It took “four years and millions of gallons of juice” before the charade became clear – the company’s “‘100% Pure Apple Juice’ was a 100% fake.”[i]
Why did it take so long?
There were too few willing to ask none of the wrong questions.
When the former Lakewood police officer accused of stealing $151,000 from the families of four slain colleagues pleads guilty – as expected – when he makes his appearance in federal court at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, March 16, 2012 how many of the wrong questions will be asked and will the public ever know the answers?
(1) Did Skeeter Manos, as KIRO-TV reports, also steal “campaign contributions from fellow officer Brian Wurts, who ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat in 2010”? If so, how much?
(2) Given Eric Bell, new Lakewood Police Independent Guild President who replaced the recently resigned Wurts, says that there is a “significant amount” of money missing from the dues the guild receives – how much is “significant”? About $70 a month, $76,600 a year - from the more than 90 police officers, detectives, investigators and sergeants that make up the guild – was overseen by Manos and Wurts.
(3) Why did Wurts resign? Bell claims both Manos, fired from his position as Guild treasurer, and Wurts, placed on paid administrative leave, “thwarted” repeated requests for review of the guild’s accounts. How often were those inquiries made and why were the rebuffs repeatedly accepted?
(4) Will the City of Lakewood return to the police officer’s fund the 11-percent interest the city gained on the revenue generated at a Lakewood casino at which Manos is alleged to have withdrawn $4,000 in $500 increments from the account he is charged with secretly establishing? That’s what you do isn’t it, return it to the rightful owner, when something stolen is possessed, whether you know it was stolen or not? And will the casino likewise chip in their share of the loot, reimbursing the kids from whose account it was wrongfully taken?
What’s at stake here is trust. A claim of 100% apple juice should be, upon further investigation of evidence to the contrary, just that.
Given Friday’s (March 16, 2012) debate in the New York Times about recent developments on Wall Street, trust is no small matter. Research conducted of those with greater access to money than most revealed that “the wealthy were more likely to lie in negotiations and endorse unethical behavior at work. Wealthier subjects even took more candy from a jar that was ostensibly for children.”
The Municipal Research Services Center has posted an article this week in which trust is defined as “confidence” in authorities.
Once confidence has seriously, significantly - as in the Skeeter Manos, etc. incident - been called into question, then the police department, with City oversight and insistence, must not only not balk at being scrutinized, but must also leave no shadow of a doubt that no stone’s been left unturned in order to begin to rebuild their currently tarnished ‘protect-and-serve’ image.
That’ll be no easy task, any more than “if you took the greed out of Wall Street you’d be leaving it no more than pavement. The problem is endemic abuse of power and trust.”
[i] The Ethics Gap – Greed and the Casino Society. “The Erosion of Ethics in Our Professions, Business and Government” by Joseph W. Cotchett, p.114