Peter Carlisle: Dropping a Dime on Ethics Scofflaws

who is on a dime coin

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Any colloquial discussion of ethical conduct and government employees should commence with rats.

To rat on another is to inform on or betray. It used to be to do so required no more effort than dropping a dime. For you youngsters under 40, the reference to a coin may be difficult to comprehend. These days with credit, debit and prepaid phone cards, the use of a coin is an archaic way to make a phone call and a dime is insufficient for either a call or a cup of coffee.

In the hallowed place where I spent most of my life, the last century, the phrase “dropping a dime” was criminal underworld slang describing surreptitiously providing information to the police. The expression dates

from a time when a public pay telephone call cost 10 cents and a dime was dropped into the slot. This facilitated a call to the police or other authority by an anonymous informer without fear of the call being traced.

State Rep. Romy Cachola serves in the Legislature despite the ethics troubles he ran into stemming from his time as a Honolulu City Council member.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In this century the dime-dropper has morphed into the wondrous whistleblower. Nowadays a person who truthfully blows the whistle by revealing corruption or wrongdoing in government is often admired and legally protected. So I want to claim some small level of recognition as a whistleblower on a pre-eminent role model of ethical behavior, former City Council member


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