Khazei Admits Error in Hiring Brother, Says He Has Learned from the Experience

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August 29, 2011; Source: Boston Globe | Four days after the Boston Globe scolded him for hiring his brother to do marketing work for his latest nonprofit venture without first getting board approval, City Year co-founder and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alan Khazei admitted that he made a mistake. In a letter to the editor of the Globe, Khazei writes:

The editorial “Brotherly love and denial’’ (Aug. 25) contained valid points. I made a mistake in not seeking the board’s approval at Be the Change when hiring my brother, and I apologize for the error. Regardless of my confidence in his skills, his hiring should have been reviewed and approved in advance by the able board there. I deeply appreciate the support that Be the Change has received and what it has been able to accomplish as a result. I have learned from this experience, and I remain a strong advocate for accountability for decisions made by leaders across the public arena.

Presumably Khazei hopes that this apology will close the book on a bad couple of weeks of publicity for him concerning his nonprofit organization Be the Change. As NPQ reported previously, both Boston newspapers looked into the hefty consulting fees Khazei is earning from Be the Change now that he has left the organization to run for Senate. Then came the news that Khazei had failed to get board approval before he hired his brother Lance to do marketing work for Be the Change, paying him $40,000 over three years. But Khazei’s worst moment was when he initially tried to justify hiring his brother by invoking family loyalty and his brother’s talents as a writer. That response exposed something troubling about Khazei’s character, and prompted the Globe to publicly scold him in an editorial. The rebuke from the newspaper that endorsed his run for the Senate in the 2010 special election apparently got Khazei’s attention, prompting the apologetic letter that ran yesterday.

Politics repeatedly attracts hard-charging figures from the for-profit and nonprofit sectors who believe that they can bring to government a no-nonsense energy to “cut through the red tape” and “get things done.” But sometimes, as with the board-approval requirement that Khazei skirted, that red tape is there for a reason. And the level of scrutiny one receives heading a private organization is no match for the microscope of politics. Khazei is not the first businessperson or social entrepreneur to find that out, and he won’t be the last.—Chris Hartman