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?

I see there being two types of conflict of interest. First, there’s the financial type, which is already covered by org guidelines, particularly for Board. Second, there are the personal conflicts that arise from relationships between people. I dealt with both during my past term as a Board member, and in the same way: I disclosed the conflict immediately, and abstained from voting on those decisions.

If I serve on Board again, I imagine the personal COI will come into play because I am friends or friendly with a large number of staff, and there are some decisions I just will not be able to make. For instance, anything impacting VolCom staff, I would have to point out that I have close friendships with most of them, and would not feel comfortable making decisions on any disciplinary actions–not that I can ever see VolCom being in that situation–then remove myself from taking part in any discussion or vote.

There is a small chance the financial COI may come up as it has in the past, through the org funding my attendance at a con to represent the org. I submitted a detailed proposal, removed myself from discussion of it, and abstained from voting. I would do the same again. I also took the extra measure of drafting policy last year outlining what expenses any volunteer, staff, or Board member could request for reimbursement or payment from the org, to ensure fair opportunities for all personnel. I would push the Board toward finalizing and approving those drafts, with personnel input, to add another layer of protection against conflicts of interest.

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?

As I said above, I have some experience with these kinds of situations in the org, and my general approach is to step back from discussion and remove myself from voting if I have a distinct conflict or feel I can’t judge a situation fairly.

I want to work to make every proposal viable. If any committee is bringing something forward, it’s because they see a need for it from their area of expertise. My job as a Board member would be to look at the bigger picture of how it impacts the org and how it impacts other committees, then work with the committee to give it the best chance of approval and success. That means making sure the committee–mine or another–has all of their bases covered in getting feedback from potentially impacted committees and demonstrating how the proposal fits into the overall needs of the org. So long as the committee is willing to discuss those things with the Board, I think I can make a fair decision based on the proposal in front of me.