Fitzgerald Auto Malls wins ethics award

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2005

Click here to enlarge this photo
Gazette file photo
‘‘Ethics is just a six-letter word for honesty,” said Jack Fitzgerald, chairman and president of Fitzgerald Auto Malls of North Bethesda.

Jack Fitzgerald built his business by drumming into all his workers the merits of honesty, integrity and high-quality customer service. So when his company won an ethics award recently, he was a little mystified.

‘‘Ethics? I didn’t know they had ethics awards,” said Fitzgerald, founder, chairman and president of the Fitzgerald Auto Malls car dealership. ‘‘Ethics is just a six-letter word for honesty. That’s just something we do all the time.”

Fitzgerald Auto Malls, which has its headquarters in North Bethesda, won the large-company award, for companies with 250 or more employees, at the 2005 National Capital Business Ethics Awards dinner Oct. 20 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Tysons Corner, Va. The awards are presented annually by the National Capital Chapter of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, in partnership with George Mason University, to recognize those businesses outside the financial services industry that exemplify a ‘‘strong commitment to business excellence and the highest standards of civic and social responsibility, integrity and ethical conduct.”

‘‘Jack Fitzgerald eliminated the adversarial relationship between his customers and his automobile salesmen,” said one of the judges, Stephen D. Potts, who is chairman of the board of the Ethics Resource Center in Washington, D.C., and former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. ‘‘Discounted, no-haggle prices are posted on the windshields of both new and used cars offered for sale. Customers know that Jack is honest and trustworthy.”

More than 50 companies were nominated. Finalists included Forrester Construction Co. of Rockville.

National Security Research Inc. of Arlington, Va., won the award for medium-sized companies, and Ventera Corp. of McLean, Va., won the small-company award.

The winners are now eligible for the national American Business Ethics awards competition.

‘‘This is a celebration for me because, you know, I think normally the public is very suspicious of us, car dealers,” Fitzgerald said. ‘‘I’m very proud of my people. That’s how you win these awards — your people win it.”

Fitzgerald bought his first dealership in 1966. He now has 13 locations from Pennsylvania to Florida, mostly in Maryland. Over the years, he and the company have won several awards, including many community service awards for its child safety programs. Fitzgerald’s company offers free child safety seat installations and inspections to ensure child seats are installed properly.

‘‘We talk about doing the right thing all the time, every time, just a matter of course,” Fitzgerald said. ‘‘But I think most companies are like that. It’s just that you don’t see anything about a company until they do something bad.”