By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) –  In one way at least, the public and private sectors are exactly alike – if you’re a successful professional in either sector, it’s in some large part because you know a lot of people.

Loners without contacts tend not to make it big.

It’s like the old Broadway song Barbara Streisand had a hit with: People who know people are the luckiest people in the world.

But when it comes to the skeptical scrutiny of appearances, the two sectors couldn’t be more different.

If a private family-run business stacks the payroll with incompetent relatives and friends, hey, it’s their money. When the state probation department does it, federal court here we come.

People who enjoy tremendous public power should be held to a high standard of serving the public interest, not their own. For pols, bureaucrats, and judges who’ve been around the campus for while, potential conflicts of interest are everywhere.

Just ask Steve Crosby of the state gaming commission, whose past relationships and taste for corporate shrimp have a growing list of pols calling for his resignation; or ask Supreme Judicial Court Justice Robert Cordy, the subject of a Globe report Sunday questioning 20-year-old business relationships he had with Suffolk Downs.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

In Cordy’s case, it’s hard to believe that someone so well-known for integrity even before joining the bench would let long-ago connections taint his judgment now, and there’s no evidence that he has.

Crosby’s tough situation is trickier, because he, too, has a clean track record, no pun intended.

Appearances do matter, and Crosby’s been sloppy, but those calling for his head should at least tell us – who is out there who could replace him without “potential conflicts” of their own?

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.


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