Tales of a Young Urban Planner – How to Sidestep An Out-of-Bounds Question

A few weeks ago, I found myself an extremely taxing conversation with a representative for a commercial real estate company.  I had to do on demand research which put this call at 25 minutes.  Towards the end of the conversation, the rep asked me to recommend law firms in the area that deal with land use issues.

Now hold on.  Seriously?

Private sector representative just asked public sector employee to recommend to him/her a legal team that will give his/her company a favorable outcome.  I say ‘favorable’ because who wants an unfavorable outcome when there is land, money and time involved.  I almost choked on my tea when hearing it.  I explained to the rep that I was not in a position to do this.  The rep says ‘Its okay, this conversation is off the record.’

What???  Because that makes it better somehow.  In the murky world of land deals, dollars and politics, nothing is truly ever off the record.

The rep began to rattle off a few legal firms that s/he was already aware of doing business with my agency.  I replied ‘yes, you are correct, they have worked on cases brought to our agency.’  The rep wanted to know which of these firms was actually ‘good at their job.’  At this point I am completely exasperated.  I said ‘you are going to have to speak with their clients to make that determination.’  The rep FINALLY caught the hint and seemed a bit embarrassed by the line of questioning.  End scene.

During the course of my career, I have heard of firm representatives (reps) attempting to pay for the lunch of employees and inviting agency employees to social functions held by the reps.  All of these actions are out-of-bounds and could be considered a bribe.  Someone just starting out in the field may find it nice when a company/firm representative wants to invite them to a party or pay for coffee/lunch/whatever but you better believe from the rep’s perspective, s/he is operating under the mindset that these acts are greasing the skids, some way some how.

Baby planners and baby public sector employees who have any sort of contact with the public.  Just.say.no.  If your spidey sense is  going haywire to any type of request that sounds remotely off,  trust it.  You will save yourself a whole heap of trouble down the line.

Rant over, off to write my next post which will be all smiles and rainbows…

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