An applicant for the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office withdrew from consideration minutes after he was caught plagiarizing large swaths of his application to replace Paul Petersen, who resigned in early January.
A Google search showed Michael Farrar, a former member of the Carefree Town Council who ran unsuccessfully for the House in 2010, completely lifted full passages from Forbes, the California State Association of Counties, and other websites into his application and attempted to play them off as his own.
Each of the 12 applicants for the job – which includes two former lawmakers, an attorney at Rose Law Group and a perennial candidate – was asked 14 questions, and Farrar plagiarized his written responses to at least five of them.
The first question on the application asked him to explain what the assessor does.
He stole 198 words out of a 211-word definition on the California State Association of Counties site.
“The Assessor is responsible for the creation and maintenance of all mapping/drafting activities for the Assessor’s Office and creation of new assessor parcels from final subdivisions, parcel maps, lot line adjustments, record of survey, deeds and miscellaneous documents,” both the site and his answer say.
Only two out of five paragraphs in his response to that question did not appear to be directly plagiarized. Farrar told Arizona Capitol Times he “sent the wrong [application] over without the citations.”
He said he withdrew his application from consideration on the morning of Jan. 30, before being confronted about the plagiarism over the phone.
County spokesman Fields Moseley said they received a letter of withdrawal at 2:10 p.m., just three minutes after talking to the Capitol Times. Moseley said the Board of Supervisors was unaware of the plagiarism.
Farrar said that he withdrew the application not because he was worried his plagiarism would be found out, but because he’s too busy to do the job.
“I just can’t do it, there’s too many other things I am involved in,” Farrar said.
In his bid to be the new assessor, Farrar got some high praise from high places. Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson all wrote him glowing letters of recommendation.
The application also asked Farrar what it means to be a public servant, and much of his answer was lifted straight from the Thomas Edison State University website.
“Great work and great leadership often go hand-in-hand. So when it comes to success, good leaders tend to share these five key qualities across the board that make them both competent managers and effective public servants,” he wrote in a passage lifted entirely from the website.
He then broke his answers down into a numbered list, which he lifted from the same university website.
- Good leaders motivate and encourage others.
- Good leaders communicate clearly and listen attentively.
- Good leaders are trustworthy.
- Good leaders think critically.
- Good leaders are resilient.
“In the world of public policy and governance, the only constant is change. Budgets get cut. Resources shrink. People come and go. But leaders must be able to respond accordingly and continue to produce results amidst an ever-evolving landscape. Good leaders assume these challenges and develop alternative solutions. They remain positive during difficult times. And most importantly, they encourage confidence in their employees so, they too, will remain effective at the most crucial times,” he plagiarized in another passage.
In response to a question about what approach he would take to initiate a culture change in the Assessor’s Office, Farrar got creative and plagiarized from two different websites.
His answer steals from a Forbes story titled, “How To Create A Culture Of Change” that talks about Tony Hsieh, the “the phenomenally successful CEO of Zappos” and references Xerox, Canon and Ricoh.
He then delves into passages from the Six Sigma Quality website about the culture of change.
The final question Farrar copied pertains to customer service. For that, Farrar used a definition of customer service from salesforce.com. “Customer service is the brand promise you offer your customers – both before and after they buy and use your products or services – that helps them have a comfortable and enjoyable experience with you,” he wrote, only changing “support” from the original text to “brand promise.”
Farrar did not appear to plagiarize anything when answering how he would work to re-establish the public’s trust as the new assessor.
Instead, he wrote that he would “act with integrity and keep commitments and devote all my attention and time to this office without outside employment, nor conflicting business activity.” He added that as assessor he would build trust from the beginning of his relationship with every new employee. “Trust is fragile, but it can grow strong over time, if you continually pay attention to it.”
With Farrar no longer seeking the role of County Assessor, only 11 candidates remain.