Katarina Harju 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?

A conflict of interest would be a situation where either my professional judgement was compromised by personal interest, or where I owed a duty to either party, all parties, or an interested third party and could not do justice to everyone involved in the situation. As there are almost no situations in the OTW where personal financial gain would be an issue, most conflicts of interest would likely be in regards to personnel issues. There are policies to safeguard the OTW with regards to financial conflicts of interest, but nothing to protect our volunteers against the other kind. While I would hope that I would understand to recuse myself if such a situation arose, it is increasingly apparent, partly because of developments during this election season, that strict policies governing and limiting Board behaviour, including conflicts of interest, need to be introduced and enforced.

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?

It is a fallacy to assume that I, or any other potential Board member, would lose what feelings or loyalties we might have towards a committee if we stepped down from our roles. However, the truth is that my duty is first and foremost to the OTW as a whole, and its mission, not to any individual committee or person. I trust and firmly believe that the people with whom I have served on various committees understand and share that sentiment.

I also firmly believe that any and all decisions, barring issues of confidentiality, should be discussed and voted on openly or the information otherwise made available to the people serving in the organization. Then in such a case that my own judgment on my objectivity were to fail, I would hope that it would be brought to attention and subsequently appropriate action taken.