Nikisha Sanders 2015 Q&A: Conflict of Interest

When Elections was ordered to remove Nikisha Sanders from the 2015 Election ballot, the committee was told to erase all information about her candidacy from the website. However, Elections firmly feels that there is no situation in which candidates, whether former or current, should be silenced or erased from Election information. As in all circumstances, Elections’ policy is to only edit and/or post candidate-written information with candidate permission. Therefore, with Sanders’ permission, we have posted the Q&A responses she completed prior to her removal.

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

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.

Andrea Horbinski 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?

Generally speaking, a conflict of interest arises when a Board member has a significant interest or potential significant interest (which is to say, potential benefit) in a decision that the Board is making: this could either be short or long-term, and is usually defined as financial interest. Currently, Board members are required to disclose any current or potential conflicts of interest when they join the Board and update their disclosures annually, and they are required to disclose when they have such a conflict of interest and to abstain from voting on such matters. The OTW’s conflict of interest policy is publicly available (skip to “Part V, Line 5a”); I have abided by it during my term on the Board and will continue to do so.

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’m not presently serving on any other OTW committees, and don’t intend to do so; I’ve found the workload to be just too much to make that feasible while fulfilling my responsibilities as a director, which legally have to come first. By the same token, I do want to note that a director consciously failing to act in accordance with their judgement of the best interests of the OTW as a whole would be violating their responsibilities to the organization.

Matty Bowers 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 arises when one is involved in a situation where they or someone close to them could personally benefit from a decision. If the person puts their needs before the needs of the organization, they are no longer upholding the duties they swore to follow.

As a Board member, I would of course recuse myself from any situation where I felt the benefit to either me or a committee I was on could impact my impartiality.

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 would depend on the situation. If needed, I would have no problems recusing myself should I feel I couldn’t make an impartial decision. In both Abuse and Support we often have times when we need to recuse ourselves from tickets because it impacts one of us personally or because it directly impacts someone we know. This is a normal part of committee work, one which I’d have no problem practicing as Board.

A. Neither I nor any committee I work with would deliberately submit a proposal or change that wasn’t in everyone’s best interest. All proposals written by any committee I’m in carefully consider not just our needs, but those of the organization. If it’s decided the project would be helpful to us, but detrimental to the OTW in general, we would discard the proposal.

If by some chance we overlook a reason a project would negatively impact the OTW, it should still be caught before it is submitted for Board approval; all proposals need to be approved by any committee even slightly impacted by the change. At the point any potential problems would be noted and again, the proposal would be discarded. Should it somehow reach Board level, the committee would most likely be horrified they missed something and would withdraw the proposal.

B. Again, this is fairly unlikely to happen with any committee I work with regularly. Most committees do everything in their power to ensure everyone is onboard with any major changes. If a negative issue was pointed out, in general the committee would graciously discard and investigate other options.

I understand this was an issue in the past, and still may be for some committees. With a few exceptions though, these days the OTW chairs tend to be a close-knit bunch who work well together.

Atiya Hakeem 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 occurs when someone with decision-making power is in a position to personally benefit from the results of their own decision. So, for example, if I worked for a vendor that produced a service or product, and as Board I was involved in deciding which vendor to choose, that would be a potential conflict of interest. I don’t foresee this being an issue for me, but if it came up, I would, of course, recuse myself from the decision process.

Potentially, a director could have a conflict of interest if a Board decision involved an OTW staffer or volunteer with whom the director had had personal issues. I don’t feel there is anyone in the Org I could not work with objectively, but I think it’s important to be sensitive to potential problems of this type. If a staffer or volunteer had concerns about my objectivity that I were unable to address to their satisfaction, I would remove myself from the decision in question.

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?

a. First of all, no committee I have ever been on would intentionally submit a proposal to Board that was not in the OTW’s best interests. Regardless of whether I were on Board or not, if I felt my committee was proposing something that would be harmful to the organization of which we are a part, I would argue strenuously against it.

In a transparent environment, committees will know when Board is considering a proposal, and if a committee has an unaddressed concern about a potential impact, the proposal should be sent back for further discussion. I feel that having additional perspectives is a positive thing for decision making. It is neither necessary nor beneficial to set up an adversarial system in which committees must advocate one-sidedly for narrow goals. Joining AD&T in addition to Support, for example, didn’t create a conflict of interest for me as a Support staffer; instead it allowed me to bring a useful new point of view to both committees.

That said, as a member of Board, my primary responsibility must always be to the Org as a whole. No matter what other hats I wear, at the end of the day that perspective must take precedence.

b. Again, I don’t think Board should be making this type of decision unless it’s absolutely necessary. Where Board may legitimately have to make choices between projects is in allocating financial resources. I believe strongly in the importance of all the OTW’s projects and feel that I could work on budget allocation without undue bias, but it is an issue I would certainly be alert for, and I would give particular care to listening to my fellow Board members’ opinions on the subject.

Aline Carrão 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 is any situation where a person’s individual interests make them partial in a vote or decision. In the case of a board of directors, this makes it questionable that the person can make a decision aligned with the interests of the institution that they represent.

I can see this situation arising for me as a board member in two different ways: a conflict of interest related to an external element that would make me personally interested in the outcome of a decision (for example, a venue I want to visit for leisure being considered for the board’s annual retreat) or a conflict arising from a situation internal to the organization itself (any decision regarding a volunteer, committee, or proposal that I have a history with that might influence me too much, to the extent that my judgment would be clouded). In both cases, I believe that it is the duty of said director to disclose this position, situation, or interest, and to remove themselves from the decision if necessary.

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?

If a situation arises where my personal position as a member of a specific committee goes against the broader interests of the Organization and I believe I can’t distance myself enough to make a decision, I intend to recuse myself.

That said, our personal opinions, not only as members (and former members) of committees but also as individuals, will always be a factor in the way we approach issues and proposals. Being aware of that and consciously working to minimise this factor while hearing different views and approaches to the same issue with an open mind is the best way we can work to find a fair decision to all parties involved.

That is why I believe it is important to have representatives of diverse parts of the OTW in the board of directors and work in an environment where there’s open feedback and debate with the whole organization. This way we can ensure that opinions balance each other out, which increases the likelihood of an unbiased outcome.