By Jodi L. O’Neill, CCEP
Deputy Compliance Officer – Indiana Public Retirement System (INPRS)
She didn’t bear a formal title like Deputy Compliance Officer. She didn’t have an office in a high rise. She didn’t get paid to teach me morals and values. But what she did for me will last long after any job or title, location or pay. She rooted in me “do the right thing even when the right thing is hard to do” and “at the end of the day you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.”
She was the first person to teach me to understand all the facts, tell the truth, don’t steal, and put my best foot forward. I remember her going back into a store to return money to a clerk who had given her too much. By all rights, she could have kept it. It was the clerk’s mistake after all. But she went back in and returned the cash. She used that as a teaching moment for me. Even though it was “legal” to keep it, it wasn’t “right.” Ethics vs. compliance. She always took things a step farther than most.
When Mom asked me to do something, I had better do it. On her time frame – not mine. You see, my time frame was when I felt like it. And many times I would “forget” before I “felt like it.” Which landed me in hot water. And when Mom told me to stop doing something. I had better stop. Immediately. I learned to be compliant to her instructions very quickly. Don’t get me wrong. There was never corporal punishment. But there was punishment for non-compliance. And it was consistent.
As I was growing up, times were tight on occasion. As a factory worker, she would struggle through layoffs. I remember her working two and three part-time jobs to provide for us. All of them together didn’t equal the full-time pay. Others she knew made an easy buck by doing things that were less than ethical and they had more stuff than we ever dreamed. But for her, reputation and morals always trumped stuff.
Work hard. Do the right thing. Follow the rules. Let your conscience be your guide.
I’m a communicator by trade. A storyteller of sorts. I take information people need to know and create something that makes them pause and think a moment. And, if I do my job well enough, they turn those thoughts into action. Maybe that’s why I made the leap from communication/public relations to ethics and compliance almost three years ago. Many things are legal to do, but are they ethical? Can I breathe life into an area that for many is so gray? Can I couple my passion as a communicator with my basic core of ethics and compliance and help others go a step further than most?
Today, I sadly sit here thinking about the approaching second anniversary of her death wishing I had more time with her. I fondly think of everything Mom stood for and wish she could read this post about her. It would make her laugh. And cry. And feel proud knowing that her life mattered. It had purpose. Choosing to do the right thing even when the right thing was hard to do. Always being able to look at herself in the mirror. I will never look in the mirror and be ashamed of what I see. And it’s because of her.
Thank you, Mom, for being my very first ethics and compliance teacher. You were the best.