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It’s not my fault

POSTED March 8, 2011 9:14 p.m.

The hearings that will determine whether eight current and former Bell city leaders will stand trial for misappropriating more than $5 million is a prime example of  the “not my fault” mentality that has become commonplace in America today.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Bell City Clerk Rebecca Valdez testified on March 3 that she did not feel adequately trained for the position but did become certified as a municipal clerk. This is her excuse for falsifying paperwork to hide the outrageous salary and benefits the city administrator was approving for himself.

Mind you, Valdez is college educated and has been working for the city of Bell since 2000, when she was hired on as an account clerk.

According to the Times, Valdez said that former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo told her last June to remove the city attorney's signature line from five contracts that had been created two years earlier but had gone unsigned. The contracts did not change Rizzo's salary, which at the time was $632,700, but split up his pay so it was drawn from a variety of city agencies — making it harder to determine his full compensation.

Wow. I don’t know who is going to believe that it’s not Valdez’s fault because she didn’t fully understand her job. Not me.

It is amazing to me how America has become a nation of blame gamers. When wrong doing has taken place — or a simple mistake — more and more people start out by stating, “It wasn’t my fault.” Whatever happened to taking responsibility for your actions? Whatever happened to integrity?

Dictionary.com defines “integrity” as: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. If more people were honest about their actions, then more time could be spent fixing the problems of our nation and less time spent finding someone to blame.

Sometimes, the “not my fault” is so blatantly self-serving that one has to wonder how stupid the blame gamer thinks we are.

I won’t even get into the blame gaming of the nation’s banks and financial institutions that gave away loans to anyone with a pulse then sat back and watched as the housing market imploded. And I definitely don’t have enough paper and ink to talk about local governments blaming the county for their budget crisis and county governments blaming the state and the state blaming the federal government, which in turn blames the economy. With all this blaming going on, who has time for actually governing?

While this rampant disassociation with anything coming close to blame is all too common, there are still instances of integrity.

In July 2009 President Barack Obama apologized for comments he made regarding the Cambridge Police Department and their arrest of a Harvard professor.

CNN reported the president acknowledged that his words "helped to contribute to ratcheting" up the situation when he criticized the manner in which Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley arrested professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

"I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department or Sgt. Crowley specifically," Obama told reporters. "I could have calibrated those words differently, and I told this to Sgt. Crowley."

I know owning up to harsh words said against the integrity of a police department is a little different than excepting responsibility for defrauding the people of Bell, but if the president of the United States can say he’s sorry, without any blame gamer qualifiers, then why can’t the average American?

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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