OK, I heard a quote that I had to write down, and now I’m going to tell you about it—I stole this, it is not my thinking, I was only in the audience…but wish I would have said it.

Numerous times I have heard fraudsters say, “there was a lot of pressure,” or, “the environment made me do it,” or even, “my (ethical) mentor had left the department.” As a matter of fact, one perp who went to jail ultimately due to my testimony claimed that there was “Wall Street” and “EPS” pressure on him…and yet, he didn’t even do his own budget!

But I digress.

In fraud detection efforts, and choices of “right and wrong,” excuses abound.  It’s always someone else’s fault, if only such-and-such would have happened, you’ve likely heard them all…I know I have.  At some point in time, you have to make a stand, choose a course, say no, maybe even leave.  But you have to do something. Here in Atlanta, like in other cities, we’ve had numerous good, bad, and ugly choices made by public officials, in government, in business…many which will likely not be told.  But I contend the “good guys outnumber the bad,” and some of those stories do get reasonably public.  As a matter of fact, I heard one of them characterized in two completely opposite ways, in a 120-day period. Late in 2011, I attended a panel discussion put on by a local law firm office.  The panel was comprised of one of the local paper’s editorial staff, a state representative, someone representing a local university, and the panel was moderated by a minority, a specialist in education.  The topic overall was quality of education, and the primary issue became the APS test-cheating scandal.  Outnumbered, the local university representative had little chance; the panel dictated the pre-ordained premise and conclusion.  NOTHING about the primary responsibility of teachers in the classroom to educate children was vocalized; nothing was mentioned about the failure of leadership at the principal level and the school district.  Nothing was said about the recently-departed superintendent taking “the Sergeant Schultz” defense. No, the “conclusion” was…There was “a lot of pressure from the business community.”

I gagged…almost left the room.

Conversely, I very recently attended a presentation orchestrated jointly by an audit and fraud-investigative association.  One of the presenters was the current superintendent of the APS…he has honors, educational credentials, business experience, executive positions, and major responsibilities in his “bio” that would overwhelm all of us…and he’s also a minority—although he might not describe himself that way. Anyway, one of the experiences he imparted to the 300 or so people in the audience was this… (paraphrased by me except for his last comment): When I took over at the APS, I heard from a lot of people what their description of what caused the scandal was.  After I/we terminated all the senior staff, a large bloc of principals, and placed a host of teachers on leave pending hearings, the overriding theme was, there was pressure to perform, and that’s what caused all of the cheating.  You know, I’ve had pressure my whole life (as have most of you here today), and my reaction to such a silly “reason” is…

“That’s a crock.”

…Oh, which scenario do I believe to be factual…?  You mean you have to ask?