The Report of the Conference on Professional Responbility
On January 30 of last year Ralph Nader and some like-minded associates had a blast at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. But before anyone gets the wrong notion, it was a most sober toot -- advocates of "whistle blowing" (exposing government or industry activity which conflicts with the public interest) assembled for a one-day Conference on Professional Responsibility. The morning session heard Nader discuss the whistle-blowing ethic (what criteria might an individual use when confronted with the question of loyalty vs. conscience?), then Senator William Proxmire on the federal employee's obligation (a draft of his pending Employee Rights and Accountability Act which would ensure due process for civil servants is appended), Robert (Up the Organization) Townsend on fingering malfeasance in the business community, and finally Prof. Arthur Miller (George Washington Law) on the legal issues (cf. the Ellsberg-Russo case). In the afternoon, nine prominent whistle blowers -- Dr. Jacqueline Verrett (FDA, cyclamates), A. Ernest Fitzgerald (formerly Air Force, C-5A cost overruns), Dr. Dale Console (formerly Squibb Co., drug industry exploitation), et al. -- talked about their cases, attitudes, and convictions. Most conferees agreed that, while it is unlikely the whistle-blowing process can or should be systematized, general strategies and guidelines are required (codes of ethics, bills of rights, legislation, and the like) -- proposals similar to those offered in Peters and Branch's Blowing the Whistle (p. 246). To be citizen first and employee second is one of those wrenching ontological choices; the merit of this latest volume in the Nader Advocacy Library is that it sensitizes the problem and offers pragmatic encouragement.