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Conscience and confidentiality
<James Causton>
Just over a year and a half a go I had a message on my answering machine from a lady who was experiencing a problem with her neighbors tree. I wrote down the name and phone# in my desk pad and called her back. She wanted to know how to kill her neighbors tree which was obstructing her view of Puget Sound. I informed her that what she wanted to do was illegal and that I wanted no part in helping her achieve her goals.
Two weeks ago I received a call from a man who was very concerned about a large Western Red Cedar in his yard which had rapidly turned brown.
On inspection of the tree I found a number of bore holes .5inch dia. around the trunk about 2ft above the ground. This, to me, immediately indicated a poisoning issue.
When I went back to my office and entered the information into my computer I became aware of an entry from the neighboring address requesting information on poisoning trees!!!!
I know who killed this mans tree, am I at liberty to divulge the early conversation with the perpetrator??
I never had any "contractural obligation" to them, and were never paid by them. I would be very interested to hear how any body else sees this situation. Thanks, James
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<Russ Carlson>
Reply to post by James Causton, on March 28, 2001 at 01:00:57:

I suggest you consult with your own attorney before divulging anything.

You may be able to prove that the tree was poisoned, but can you prove who did it? A phone call from a neighbor is not much proof that they actually did it, or even paid someone to do it for them. Without some hard evidence of who did the deed, you could end up on the wrong end of a slander suit.
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<John Paul Sanborn>
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on March 28, 2001 at 01:00:57:

I agree with the need to consult with legal council, but I would fee the obligation to inform the home owner that the neighbor was enquiring about arboricidal procedure.

People can take legal action for almost anything so since this is a discussion on professional ethics, I would say that doing the right thing outweighs the risk of a lawsuit.

Council for the plaintiff: So you are saying that my client killed that tree?

Arborist: No, councilor, I am stating that a person at this address asked me how to kill a tree on such and such a date because here neighbors tree was bothering her. I informed her that it was what she was asking was illegal to do, and unethical for me to be associated with. I informed her neighbor , whose tree was vandalized that she had made this enquiry.

Council: Just answer yes or no to my questions Mr. Arborist
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<Bob Wulkowicz>
Reply to post by John Paul Sanborn, on March 28, 2001 at 01:31:32:

If conscience were an easier burden, I suspect we might all have one. For those who place convenience, comfort and self-interest before conscience, I feel truly sorry.

This is not to say that what I expect or promote has any relevancy in today's slippery slidey morality, but failing to face and wrestle sometimes difficult decisions keeps us at about the same ethical level as the lemming.

I don't answer questions about killing trees. At times I suspect I might even have been nasty. There is enough trouble keeping trees alive without pandering to the selfish thoughtless doofi (plural of doofus) who thinks they have the right to reach out and snuff something simply because they are annoyed, irritated, put upon...fill in the blank.

Give the info to your lawyer and have him contact the injured party. If it ends up in court, go and testify. Most likely however, his lawyer, using the information from you, will force some sort of settlement and you won't have to be made public.

As to the generalized "I don't want to get involved:" If you received a call from a woman asking how to poison her husband and later saw that a man had been poisoned and the name matched your log-in of her call, would you inform the police?

Oh, I shouldn't confuse trees with people? That's the whole point. Conscience is choosing routes and behavior by standards we hold to be important. They do vary with the individual and that diversity will never give us any peace or ultimate resolve. Again, that doesn't mean we run away or cover ourselves in excuses, it means we face an issue and accept the risks. I prefer the company of people who have the strength to be brave--oddly enough, they seem to survive better and hurt fewer others in the long term.

Hide from this issue and where will you draw the line for the next? Don't confuse conscience and confidentiality; they are not equal or interchangeable. One is to stand up and the other is to draw a curtain.

Bob Wulkwicz
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