Current Event: Shanahan Resigns as Secretary of NC Public Safety





Current Event: Shanahan Resigns as Secretary of NC Public Safety

Case Study

Until 31July 2013, Raleigh Kieran Shanahan served as the head of North Carolina Public Safety Department (Jarvis 1). Coupled with this secretarial position, he also served as an acting field operations assistant director for the Department of Homeland Security and US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. With more than 26,000 employees working under his leadership, Shanahan did a commendable job in ensuring that the Department of Public Safety provided quality services to the American citizens living in North Carolina. However, in the month of July, Shanahan distributed letters of resignation to all public offices that he held, the major one being director of North Carolina Public Safety Department.

According to his letters, which he said would be effective by 1 September 2013; Shanahan cited conflicting interest as the main reason for his resignation (Jarvis 1). Before being appointed to the public offices, Shanahan owned one of the best law firms in North Carolina State, Shanahan Law Group. His desire to manage his business interest was the first conflict of interest for Shanahan (Jarvis 1). More than anything else, Shanahan wanted to continue practicing law at his firm. Secondly, Shanahan stated that he wanted to support his wife, who was perusing her career development at the military (Jarvis 1). In his letters, Shanahan stated that his current positions and busy schedules limited his wife’s career advancement opportunities, and forced him to provide less support to her (Jarvis 1).

Conflict of Interest

Conflict of interests occurs when organizations or individuals are entangled between two or more actions that might be competing for the same resources. From another perspective, it might also refer unauthorized and/or unethical usage of resources from one establishment to enhance competitive advantage of another. Conflicts of interest might take the form of actual or potential actions (Whitton and Bertók 62). In regards to actual conflicts of interest, they refer to unethical actions that are already being practiced. Despite the negative outcomes and legal penalties that have been associated with actual conflict of interests, many public officials and top-level business managers have continued with its practice. They utilize their authority and senior positions to manipulate strategic decisions that disfavor their personal interests.

However, studies have shown that its practice is not so common among public officials and business managers. This may be attributed to the fact that victims will go extreme lengths to conceal their conflicting interests and avoid being caught. A good example of how people can intentionally engage themselves in actual conflict of interest is whereby they fail to disclose all their businesses and other financial assets during appointment. In turn, the aim at providing tenders and contracts to these undisclosed businesses.

Conversely, potential conflicts of interest refer to actions that might lead to competition for resources between related functions. Unlike actual, potential conflict of interest has not yet occurred. In many occasions, public servants have been affected by this type of conflict of interest. Shanahan’s case provides a good example of a potential conflict of interest. Even though he has not yet dedicated himself to his business and family, he realizes that it will very difficult to satisfy these needs, and at the same time continue with his commitments to his current positions.

Due to high number of integrity agencies and improved understanding regarding professional ethical standards, people have been able to identify conflicts of interests affecting their careers. The decisions they shall take to tackle the issue will determine the consequences of their actions. For instances, a person might decide to continue serving both interests, or forgo one in order to place more attention to that which has the highest priority. In most cases, serving both interests has resulted to negative outcomes, most of which have breached the legal statutes and the moral values set by the society. To eliminate any illegalities and avoid biasness and inefficiency, people should abandon some of their pursuits and focus on one interest.

Conflict of Interests in the Case Study

Firstly, it would have been illegal for Shanahan to practice his law career concurrently with serving his existing positions. With a workforce of more than 26,000, Shanahan’s physical presence at the Department of Public Safety was very crucial. A partial commitment towards his employees would have reduced the quality of his managerial skills. This is because he would have been forced to spend less amount of time at his Public Safety Department office, and to pay more attention towards his law firm and wife. In his resignation letter, Shanahan admitted that he had found it difficult to juggle his current job and his personal business interests. He realized that stepping away from outside business interests had proved to be more challenging than he had initially anticipated. From his statements, it was very clear that he would not have performed as expected should he had decided to continue with his secretarial position. This is because he would he would have been distracted by his commitment towards his law firm and family.

Secondly, it is illegal for public servant officials to be associated with institutions that bare the same name as theirs, and in which they directly involved with the company’s leadership (Whitton and Bertók 54). This is because they might use their influence to secure corporate agreements such as contracts and tenders. In this case, former secretary for the Department of Public Safety shared the same name with his law firm, Shanahan Law Group. There were two possible solutions to this crisis. Shanahan would have been forced to deregister his law firm and continue with his current job. Conversely, he would have resigned from his secretarial position and concentrate on his private business. Shanahan seemed to have opted for the second option after he delivered letters citing reasons for his resignation.

The third potential conflict of interest would have resulted from his involvement with the Departments of Homeland Security and US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. In all American states, these two institutions have a contact person who is authorized to access vital and confidential information such as witness protection programs. Shanahan was appointed the field director in North Carolina. Therefore, having access to these important files and practicing his law career would have been illegal and unethical. Since his law firm focused on prosecution, it would have been very inappropriate for Shanahan to take advantage of his position to access classified information that is not easily available to other lawyers. Such a situation would have resulted to unfairness in the judicial system. Furthermore, it would have threatened national security. This is because Shanahan would have disclosed vital information to the public to advance his personal gains.






Works Cited

Jarvis, Craig. “Shanahan Resigns as Secretary of NC Public Safety”. News Observer. News Observer, 26 July 2013. Web. 6 Nov 2013.

Whitton, Howard, and János Bertók. Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Sector: A Toolkit. Paris, France: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2005. Print.


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