Alex Tischer 2015 Q&A: Conflict of Interest

How would you define the term “conflict of interest” and how might it apply to you while serving on the Board?

I would define the term as the dictionary defines it, really, “a situation whereby two or more of the interests held by, or entrusted to, a single person or party are considered incompatible or breach prescribed practice; spec. a situation in which an individual may profit personally from decisions made in his or her official capacity.”

As to how it might apply to me while serving on the Board, well, if Board were to make any decisions about committees I’m working on, or about me or anyone close to me, depending on what the decision is about, my interests as a member of the Board and a member of the committee or an individual could be incompatible, and my judgment could be compromised. Any discussions involving a potential conflict of interest would have to be assessed to see if a conflict of interest would actually be present and if so, I would recuse myself from the voting.

Given that some of you intend to keep your other Org positions, how do you intend to deal with conflicts of interest when matters arise which impact your committee?

a. For example, if your committee wants to implement a change which requires Board approval, but is not necessarily in the OTW’s best interests, or would have an impact on another committee, how would you ensure that your contribution to the Board’s decision reflected your position as a Board member and not your personal opinion as a member of the committee?

b. Conversely, if another committee sought Board approval for something that would impact your own committee, how would you ensure that you were giving their arguments a fair hearing?

I would hope that none of my committees would let suggestions of implementations which are not in the OTW’s best interest go before Board, I for one would certainly do my best to prevent this, regardless of my being in Board, as would every staffer I know. But in the case of such a proposal going forward, I would expect myself and every other Board member to behave like reasonable adults and either recognize that I am too close to that topic to have a big-picture view and recuse myself entirely or to vote against my committee if the change is clearly not in the OTW’s best interest.

If another committee sought Board approval for something that impacted my own committee I would hope the discussion by that point would have already involved all relevant committees. I would behave in a professional manner and compartmentalise my work with my committee and my work on the Board enough to be able to either recuse myself from the vote or cast a vote that would be in the org’s best interest.