Why do good people go bad?
I know some of you believe that crooked politician is redundant, but it’s not. The vast majority of politicians, like the vast majority of humanity, are honest.
At the moment I am thinking of Leo Dignam, 61, a veteran city employee who had risen to the rank of assistant managing director, paid $119,000 a year, whose chief duties were overseeing mammoth city events, such as the Mummers Parade, the Philadelphia Marathon and the Broad Street Run.
I know Leo through the Mummers Parade, and I hope he is innocent. He enjoys the presumption of innocence, but he is facing federal charges of embezzlement and you know the FBI has seized his financial records.
As I said, I hope he is innocent, but if not — throw the book at him for abusing his position of trust, and stealing from the very people he was supposed to serve.
The events I mentioned are massive. It is to the city’s credit — which is to say Dignam — that the epic Philadelphia Marathon and Broad Street Run come off without a hitch each year. The Mummers Parade is smaller in scale, but larger in ego, and Dignam has managed to steer the parade through those straits without winding up on the shoals.
He was affable and unflappable, a steady hand.
Let’s not concentrate on him, as he has not been adjudicated and maybe it’s all some terrible mistake.
It might have been a mistake, but in recent years Philadelphia has sent to jail a U.S. Congressman, Chaka Fattah, and a District Attorney, Seth Williams. A corrupt D.A.? Really?
Earlier, we have seen in prison jumpsuits Congressman Ozzie Myers, former state Sen. Vince Fumo, City Councilmen Rick Mariano, Harry Jannotti, George X. Schwartz, Lee Beloff, Jimmy Tayoun, among others.
That is quite a fraternity and it proves that, yes, sometimes bad things do happen in Philadelphia.
These dudes happen to all be Democrats, but that’s not the explanation, not the sole explanation, anyway.
The same thing happens in jurisdictions in a Republican chokehold.
I don’t think it is the D or the R by the person’s name, I think it is the sense of entitlement that comes with power that is pretty much unchecked.
The criminal activity is mostly a male thing, because more men are in positions of power, but that is changing. We will see, over time, if powerful women prove to be as corrupt as men. So far, it seems not. No City Councilwoman has ever been sent to jail, and there are plenty of them. A few have had legal scrapes, but no jumpsuits.
So what causes a good person to turn bad? Is it bad upbringing? Innate criminality? No moral compass?
I think it is three things — temptation, opportunity, and belief in escaping detection.
Someone once said you can steal more with a pen than with a gun.
White collar thieves prove that’s true.
Lots of people may be tempted to steal, but they have no opportunity. Politicians like the guilty ones named above are given the opportunity to handle funds.
Would they steal if they believed they would be caught?
I don’t think so. That’s why they invent a scheme that will make their theft invisible, hide it behind dummy accounts that can’t be traced to them.
The ones who get caught are proven wrong.
I don’t know what systems and procedures the city uses to keep an eye on your money, but apparently it’s not good enough.
No system is foolproof, but ours seems lax enough to incentivize some to take the opportunity after they have been tempted.