Plagiarism in the news: Cylvia Hayes and her copied consultancy report
An investigation carried out by GoLocalPDX into the work of Cylvia Hayes, Oregan's first lady, has revealed that sections of the Green Jobs Growth Plan: 2011-2019 report that she produced were taken from a previously written state report.
Gloria Hayes was paid tens of thousands of dollars to write the report with the purpose of providing a template for job growth in green industries in the state of Oregon, USA.
The consulting firm 3E Strategies for which Hayes is both founder and CEO was approved by Oregon’s Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development to write the report which went on to be published in October 2010.
GoLocalPDX, an online news platform for Portland and Oregon, discovered no less than seven distinct passages in the 116-page report that had been copied verbatim, without any attribution to the original author. The passages were lifted from the 2009 Workforce Oregon report "The Greening of Oregon’s Workforce: Jobs, Wages and Training", which was published by the Oregon Employment Department (OED).
GoLocalPDX quote Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lewis and Clark College Ben Gaskins as saying:
“It’s textbook plagiarism because there’s quotes and paraphrasing without proper attribution.” Gaskins notes that had Hayes been a lead author on the earlier report, she might have been able to claim that she was somehow interpreting the data "the same way in two different venues". However, Hayes was not involved at all with the earlier report and it is difficult to see what defence she could possibly raise to the accusation of blatant plagiarism.
Jonathan Bailey, a plagiarism consultant for Plagiarism Today is also quoted as saying:
“[Hayes and her firm 3E Strategies] got greedy with the shortcuts and created a minor ethical quandary. They could have just paraphrased it and no one would have noticed."
The report that had been commissioned was part of a scope of work that was tied to a state contract, worth a total of $135,000. Having completed the report, Hayes was able to secure several significant- environmental consulting contracts.
Now, Hayes is the subject of an investigation by the Oregon Attorney General and in addition, an Oregon Ethics Commission review.
When quoting from a report or article directly, you should use quotation marks to make it clear that the text is not your own words. If paraphrasing, you should give credit to the original article (click here for more help with citing sources properly). In the case of Hayes' report, neither quotation marks nor a credit was provided.
Although the report that Hayes copied from was not copyrighted and free to use, this does not make the incident any less of a clear case of plagiarism. There is a wealth of text and resources online that are free to use but if using them in your own writing, proper credit must be given.
Plagiarism not illegal
Although what Hayes did was immoral and dishonest, plagiarism is not actually illegal as Workforce Analyst Will Summers told GoLocalPDX. It is perfectly legal for anyone completing a contract to lift passages from work that is in the public domain, even if they are making a profit for it (click here for a discussion on whether or not plagiarism is illegal).
The fact, however, that Hayes did not give credit to the original author in her author's list is certainly unethical.
Ordinarily if you copied content from another person's work, you might find yourself subject to a claim of copyright infringement. In the case of the reports that Hayes copied, it is not clear who owns the content when the state has paid an outside contractor, who uses state-owned material.