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.

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.

Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Conflict of Interest

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

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 in regards to the OTW could be putting self-interest over the common good, or putting one committee (that I am involved in) over the good of the org as a whole. Since I intend to continue serving on DevMem if elected, it very well could be an issue for me. I will discuss this fuller, and my reaction to it in my next answer.

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 plan to continue serving on Development and Membership after being elected.

a. Several things DevMem does, require board approval. Some of it is simple, day to day stuff—please approve the drive theme, please approve the drive goal, etc. In this instance I see no real conflict to say I support various things. If the issue is money related—such as an upgrade to our donor management software, I would abstain from any votes or discussing the matters unless specifically asked a question. The proposal would need to speak for itself. In either instance, I would make my opinion known at the committee level, and the consensus of the committee will be what is brought forward. Other board members may ask for specifics or elaborations, which if I am able, I’d be happy to give.

b. I would have no problem hearing another side’s issue in circumstances related to DevMem. Thankfully DevMem doesn’t come into conflict with other committees very often. If it were to happen, I would certainly listen, I can’t promise I’d agree, but I would try to set aside any preconceived notions I had on the issue and move forward. I would also disclaim any ex parte communication that may be involved (for example, if I wrote the counter-proposal, or whatnot.)

As a board member, you have to look out for the best of the org, not just your committee, and sometimes what’s best for the org is not always helpful to certain committees. I may not be popular in DevMem meetings for a few weeks, but I would sleep easy feeling that I did the best I could to move the org forward, even if I had to vote against DevMem’s current interests.