Ethics in Business mentor Jeffrey L. Seglin answers the following question from an visitor:
I am a consultant that works with companies to access state incentives.Recently, one state program asked if a consultant worked onthe project, and if so, what fee was charged for that consultant's services. As a result, the state funding has been reduced by the consultant's fee. I find this discriminatory, so I am trying to find the best way around disclosing that I worked on a project.

The cover sheet for the program's proposal asks for the specific identity of the person who wrote the proposal, whether it was a consultant, and what fee was charged. I have thought about changing my title to something other than consultant, perhaps accountant (which I am). I've also thought about leaving the section blank or becoming a temporary employee. I appreciate your suggestions.

Jeffrey L. Seglin responds:
If you decide to go forward with your plan, you should consult an attorneysince there may be legal implications if you're found to be misstating yourbackground on the paperwork.

From an ethical standpoint, it may seem unfair that if you listyourself as a consultant your funding is reduced. But it's still clear that youunderstand this is the way the program works. You may be able to find aloophole to go around this, but from what you've written here, it's apparentthat you know that in doing this you'll be misrepresenting who you are andwhat you do. Hardly a good foot to get off on with a client, and, unless I'mmissing something in what you propose, there's hardly ethical ground tostand on here.

If the process is indeed discriminatory and you're as outraged by it as youseem, better to work to change the process than to misstate the facts toget around it.

Copyright © 2000 LLC

For more on dealing with ethical dilemmmas, check out our guide to Ethics and Entrepreneurship.