Jun 25, 2019 in Case Studies

Administrative Ethics Case Study: Boss, We've Got a Problem

Perception of the Ethical Problem

According to the case study, Charlie Upton was perceived and admired as a reputable, professional policeman who always upheld ethics (Thomson & Leidlein, 2008). As a result of his ethical compliance and remarkable devotion to his work, Upton was made responsible to head the department’s Child Protective Services, consisting of just him. Therefore, any matters involving juveniles called for Upton’s intervention. Furthermore, the policeman was also elected to the Summit school board. Finally, his fellow school board members chose him as their chairman, which demonstrated the extent of Upton’s popularity. 

Nevertheless, Upton’s reputation and reliability were on one occasion watered down by one allegation questioning his ethical behaviors. Indeed, the case study clearly illustrated that Upton kept a deep and dark secret that he was a pedophile, experiencing attraction to little boys, which one can consider the primary ethical problem of the case study. This secret ultimately came to the light when a victim, a 12-year-old boy, reported to the social worker, who was treating his emotional problems that the department head, Charlie Upton, had sexually molested him. 


This accusation provided a clear evidence that Upton liked and preyed upon little boys and maybe also little girls. For instance, he was surprisingly dedicated to undertaking the role of organizing football leagues for teams, consisting of boys within the age between 11 and 13 (Thomson & Leidlein, 2008). Upton was also surprisingly devoted to taking little boys to the Disney World, one of the most popular theme parks, as a reward for their winning season. Due the fact that Upton was only a head of the department’s Child Protective Services and a Summit school board member, his extreme devotion to little boys’ activities was highly questionable. Actually, the village administrator seemed to have suspected Upton’s immoral behavior. Particularly, he failed to become thrilled that Upton would take little boys for a free trip to Florida despite the fact that this group included his son. Indeed, Upton’s generosity and nurturing of little boys was morally questionable though it was hard for parents and community to suspect. Furthermore, during Christmas, Upton preferred to be Santa Claus and hoist little children onto his lap so that he could enhance a close relationship with them (Thomson & Leidlein, 2008). 

Upton did not denounce or reject the allegations and did not admit whether he was guilty or not, which may confirm his immoral and unethical behavior. Even during the arraignment in court, he did not contest the charge, which reflects that the allegations were largely true since otherwise, he would have contested. Taking a close look at the case study, it becomes clear that these allegations were factual. For instance, Upton was not married and did not have children of his own. Also, the case has clearly stated that Upton held a secret of experiencing sexual attraction to little boys. 

Another ethical problem highlighted in the case study was the failure of the village administrator to sign a separation pay for Upton. Contractually, employers who fire their workers are to pay for their unused sick and vacation time. Despite the fact that Upton had accumulated about $26,000 in unused time, the village administrator declined to grant it, which was also an unethical behavior (Thomson & Leidlein, 2008). 

Definition of the Ethical Issue

Ethics refers to the principles that help individuals to distinguish right from wrong (Siegal, 2006). A set of principles known as the Code of Ethics governs organizations and defines the acceptable and unacceptable practices. An organizational environment comprises stakeholders who are conscious about ethics and demands the compliance of the Code of Ethics. An organization that seeks to survive in today’s environment should ensure that its operations are ethical to win the confidence of key stakeholders (Johnson, 2012). The stakeholders of the police department and school district include parents, children, village administrators, media, and the government. 

The Summit school and police department were enshrined to the International County Management Association’s (ICMA) Code of Ethics. ICMA’s mission was the creation of distinction in local governance by fostering professional local government management across the world. To realize this mission, specific principles of the Code of Ethics should direct the activities of every member of ICMA. In one of its rules of procedures, the Code specified that the ICMA members should affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by the government. Furthermore, they should maintain a constructive, practical, and creative attitude toward the affairs of local governments and a profound commitment to social responsibility as responsible public servants. The behavior of Upton of molesting little children was against this principle. As a public servant, Upton was required to uphold the highest ideal of integrity and honor in all public and personal relationships. Upton was also required to conduct himself ethically to maintain public confidence and trust in his profession and the performance of the local government. To this end, the behavior of molesting little children was immoral and against the ICMA’s Code of Ethics. 

On the other hand, the seniors of Upton, including the village administrator and the Police Chief also tainted the ethical practices of the organization while dealing with Upton’s situation. For instance, as mentioned earlier, despite the fact that Upton had accumulated about $26,000 in unused time, the village administrator declined to sign a separation pay for him, which was an unethical behavior. Thus, the village administrator violated the Code of Ethics by not paying Upton his dues after he was terminated, to an extent of saying ‘Let some judge order me to do it’ (Thomson & Leidlein, 2008, p. 55). Moreover, it was against the ICMA’s Code of Ethics for the management to discuss or divulge information with anyone about pending ethical cases of Upton. In this regard, before the charges were commenced, the Police Chief and the village administrator informed the media and village’s department heads of Upton’s child molestation allegations. Furthermore, the Police Chief and the village administrator went against the ICMA’s Code of Ethics by terminating Upton’s employment contract even before the charges were completed. According to ICMA’s Code of ethics, it is unethical to consider a person guilty until proven guilty in a court of law. Thus, it was against ethical conduct to terminate Upton’s employment contract before getting proven guilty. Upton should only have been relieved of his duties pending the outcome of the court hearing.  

Identification of Alternatives

The first alternative regards deontological ethics, which is an approach of ethics that pays attention to the wrongness or rightness of certain actions as opposed to the impacts of those actions. It is commonly described as an obligation- or duty-based ethics. The deontological principle is characterized by an emphasis on the compliance with independent moral duties and rules. To make a correct moral choice, one has to understand the moral duties and the appropriate rules of regulating those duties. Remarkably, if people follow their ethical duties, one can say that they are behaving morally. However, the failure to follow ethical duties results in immoral behavior. In addition, merely adhering to correct moral rules is not considerably sufficient; on the contrary, one has to possess the correct motivation. It can lead to the failure to consider people immoral regardless of the motivation towards compliance with the ideal moral rules. Essentially, there is a need to determine ethical obligations and duties absolutely and objectively, but not subjectively. In this regard, there should be no room for subjective and relative feelings in the deontological principle.

The second alternative concerns the utilitarianism principle. It is an approach of ethics whereby one considers a person’s action right in case it produces much increase in happiness to all affected parties as compared to an alternative action. In other words, utilitarianism can be referred to as a normative ethical theory, which positions the locus of wrong and right exclusively depending on the consequences of choosing one particular action over another. In this regard, it moves prefers other peoples’ interests over a person’s own interests. In addition, this principle recognizes the primary role of pleasure and pain in human life. Consequently, it disapproves or approves an action based on the amount of pleasure or pain experienced ultimately. Notably, it equates good morals with pleasure while evil with pain. Therefore, it asserts that pain and pleasure should be used as a guide to good morals and ethics. 

The third alternative regards the development of a good organizational culture, which would serve as a viable way of addressing ethical issues facing the police department and the Summit school. The top management should focus on creating a strong value system to govern the organizational operations while serving the community.  Organizational values are the fundamental beliefs about an ideal purpose of the organization. Values influence people’s attitudes that consequently affect behavior. It is imperative to create values specifically tailored to address the exact ethical issues facing the organization while delivering community services. The value system created should contain the element of ethics and the promotion of human rights. People who are conscious of organizational values and ethics can always conduct themselves ethically with a view to maintaining public confidence and trust in their profession and the performance of the local government.

Projecting the Probable Consequences

Anticipatory Self-Reflection

For each of the three aforementioned alternatives, including deontological ethics, utilitarianism principle, and a good organizational culture, the following are the possible ramifications for the organization. 

  • Recognizing an ethical issue in every situation or decision, which entails identifying whether the situation or decision to be made involve a choice between an appropriate or inappropriate alternative.
  • Obtaining the facts, which includes seeking to acquire all the facts regarding the case or the situation.
  • Making a decision and testing it, which involves selecting the option that best addresses the situation after having considered all these approaches.
  • Acting and reflecting the outcome. After making the ultimate ethical decision, one has to figure out how to implement the decision with the utmost care and with great concern regarding all the stakeholders (Tyler, 2005).

Moral Rules

The behavior of Upton of molesting little children was against the moral principle. As a public servant, Upton was required to uphold the highest ideal of integrity and morality in all public and personal relationships. By having a sexual relationship with a child, Upton violated the absolute moral rule of not harming and causing pain to another person. In addition, despite the fact that Upton had accumulated about $26,000 in unused time, the village administrator declined to sign a separation pay for Upton. As a result, he failed to comply with the moral rule of obeying the law and doing one’s duty. 

Rehearsal of Defenses

Each of the three aforementioned alternatives, including deontological ethics, utilitarianism principle, and a good organizational culture can pass what Cooper calls the 60 Minutes test. In this regard, the organizational members can be enabled to feel comfortable explaining their actions to a national television audience, family, friends, or on the front page of a local newspaper. 

Ethical Principles

  • The utilitarian approach that entails the option that will produce the highest good and commit the least harm.
  • A good organizational culture approach that entails the option that best respects the rights of all stakeholders.
  • The deontological approach that entails the option that treats people proportionately and equally (Walleck, 1991).


The recommendation of this report is for the organizational management to consider applying deontological ethics. It would enable the management to pay attention to the wrongness or rightness of certain actions as opposed to the impacts of those actions. As a result, the management should assess ethical obligations and duties objectively and not subjectively. It was technically impossible for the management to ascertain the consequences of the offender’s actions if the victim has never reported the incident. However, deontology does not require a consideration of the consequences but instead focuses on the compliance with independent moral rules and duties. The duties and rules associated with a particular job are easily identifiable, making it easy to measure the ethical position of individual’s actions. Based on the professional moral rules, it is clear Upton’s behavior was immoral as it indicated a clear noncompliance with ethics and morale. He had the responsibility of protecting young boys but ended up molesting them. It is clear that using deontology, ethics would promote objectivity in the evaluation of the Upton’s case.


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