In over a hundred episodes of Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope does a lot of amazing things. She unites two towns, she wins an international women’s award, and she creates a new national park right in her hometown, not to mention throwing killer Galentine’s Day brunches. But every once in a while, Leslie Knope gets it really wrong. She steamrolls her friends, she insults people who disagree with her, and she manipulates her coworkers. Most of her mistakes are no big deal, but there are at least ten episodes when Leslie made mistakes big enough that she should have been fired.
10 When She Refused To Work With Ron
In season 7 episode 3, “William Henry Harrison,” Ben Wyatt has to run between Leslie’s and Ron Swanson’s busy days as they each prepare for their public Gryzzl bid. He is trying to get them to sign an important Point of Sale document, but they both refuse to be in the same room, making his day ridiculously more difficult than it has to be. Leslie doesn’t actually work for Ben anymore at this point in the series so he can’t fire her for her behavior, but her inability to compromise should have been a red flag to anyone else working with her. Leslie is often wonderful, but her stubborn selfishness makes her difficult to put on a team.
9 The Party Where She Opened The Wine Basket
It doesn’t take long for Leslie to commit a work sin she sees as egregious. In season 1 episode 4, “Boys’ Club,” Leslie wants to fit in with the boys, so she opens a wine basket that was gifted to the Parks Department by a construction company. Because the value of the basket is over $25, it could be misconstrued as a bribe, and opening it is her “accepting” the bribe. The fact that she reports it and calls her own ethics hearing is probably what saves her from being fired. That said, it’s totally probable that no one would have even found out in the first place, unless Tom was jealous enough to complain.
8 When She Felt So Hungover She Cancelled All Her Meetings
By season 7 episode 4, “Leslie and Ron,” Leslie pretty much is the boss. Certainly, all of her superiors are in Washington, but that doesn’t make canceling an entire day’s worth of meetings because she wants to get waffles with Ron okay. Of course, Leslie’s superhero-like time management skills are a recurring joke in the show, so anyone who found out was probably okay with letting it slide because they knew she’d get it all done somehow. Still, it’s a big change from the Leslie Knope of previous seasons, who wouldn’t even go home when she was hallucinating from her flu medication.
7 The ‘Peepee Head Speech’ Debacle
The first episode of season 6 took part of the Parks and Rec team to London, where Leslie was receiving an award. Jerry decided to screen her acceptance speech live, only for her to deliver a scorching speech about how ungrateful Pawnee is for her.
The Recall Knope campaign is already in full swing—and is, in fact, what makes her angry enough to say what she does—but this speech is brutal enough to start a recall campaign all on its own. If she had a boss to answer to besides the people of Pawnee, this speech would be a one-way ticket to unemployment.
6 That Time She Went Over Ben’s Head About Chardbodies
For a brief period in season 6, Ben is actually Leslie’s boss. Ron is technically between them on the organizational chart, but effectively Ben is Leslie’s boss and spouse. Episode 11, “Farmer’s Market,” watches them deal with the growing pains of finding balance between work and home, and culminates in one of the funniest moments in the show. But if Ben wasn’t so invested in finding keeping the peace with Leslie, every single thing she does in this episode is a fireable offense. From her snarky “Leslie Is Right!” pen to revoking the Chardbodies business license, Leslie is an awful employee.
5 When She Locks Larry In A Containment Tent
In season 6 episode 18, “Flu Season 2,” Leslie is too busy getting ready for the Pawnee/Eagleton Unity Concert to deal with an outbreak of the flu, or accept that her employees might be suffering. Gary/Jerry/Larry asks to go work from home, but Leslie tells him, “The tent is your home now, Larry! We already forwarded your mail.”
She even sprays water at him when he tries to leave to help her. It’s not the first time Leslie holds someone in the Parks and Recreation office against their will, and the fact that she often refuses people any autonomy is not great.
4 When She Bribes The Maintenance Guy
Despite her negative experience with bribery in season one, Leslie bribes a maintenance worker at Li’l Sebastian’s funeral in season 3. He catches Ben and Leslie kissing, so Leslie gives him the rest of the day off and a gift card. This decision not only screws up the funeral for her coworkers, but it comes back to haunt her and Ben in season 4 when they have to endure an ethics trial after their relationship goes public. In fact, the only reason Leslie doesn’t get fired is that Ben takes the fall for her. He goes on record taking full responsibility and resigns, saving Leslie her job.
3 The Time She Used Wamapoke Artifacts For Her Own Gain
One of Leslie’s best qualities is her determination and grit. She always gets the job done. Unfortunately, she also sometimes steamrolls everyone and everything around her, and in season five episode ten, “Two Parties,” she goes way too far. She takes Wamapoke artifact replicas and buries them in Lot 48 to stop construction on the new Paunch Burger. This is obviously deeply problematic, and even though Leslie realizes how awfully she’s behaved, she can’t find them all again.
Once again, Leslie’s job is saved by someone else. This time, Ken Hotate verifies that the artifacts are replicas, but uses the racist history of Pawnee to put the Paunch Burger people in their place, drawing attention away from the terrible thing Leslie did.
2 When She Abused Her Power With The Rec Center Teachers
In season 2 episode 14, “Leslie’s House,” we find out that some of the recreation center classes are going to be canceled due to lack of funding. Meanwhile, Leslie throws a party at her home for her beau, Justin Anderson. In a desperate bid to impress him, she brings in some of those teachers from the recreation center to clean the house, cook dinner, and perform for him. The teachers use the opportunity to demonstrate how valuable their classes are, leading to all of the teachers insisting on giving demos all night long. Once again, Leslie probably only keeps her job because she called a disciplinary hearing over it and donated the money to keep all the rec center teachers.
1 That Time She Kidnapped Greg Pikitis
Once again Leslie gets way too intense, and this time several people suffer. In season 2 episode 7, “Greg Pikitis,” Leslie’s ongoing feud with a Pawnee high school student takes a turn for the illegal. She follows Greg Pikitis all night, then brings her at-that-time-beau Officer Dave Sanderson with her to arrest him. They hold him against his will for hours in the Parks Department office, and Leslie even suggests that Dave should torture Greg for answers. Greg is only released when a woman claiming to be his mom shows up and says she’s going to file complaints against all of them.
Not only does Leslie risk her own job, but she also risks Dave’s too. Leslie’s vendetta against Pikitis, who is still a minor, could land them both—and Andy Dwyer too—in trouble with the police. The fact that she’s not fired is probably only because that woman wasn’t actually Greg’s mom, and later that night they catch him vandalizing the statue like they always suspected.