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Possible conflict of interests?

Guest Rose J

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Hi there!

I’m the chairperson of a technical committee for a neighborhood community. We (the committee members) are all volunteers.  One of the members has chosen to act as webmaster for our new website. Recently, the community administration has asked her to submit a proposal for maintenance of the website on a continued basis.  She would be paid as a contractor from that point. This would be paid by the administration and not by committee budget. 

 My question is, what is the ethical stance on her being a contractor and also remaining as a voting member of the committee?  I see this as a conflict of interest and can see many problems arising from this not to mention the possible appearance of impropriety. 

 I’m going to be stating my case next week, but I’d really like some advice first. Any information anyone can give me would be great either way. 

Thanks so much for any help.

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The only real advice I can give is that the right to vote is fundamental, and can only be lost in accordance with the procedure for terminating rights in the bylaws, or as the result of a disciplinary process. She should recuse herself, though, on any vote regarding her pay, which is a topic in which she has a personal pecuniary interest not in common with the others, but cannot be forced to do so. It sounds, though, as if there shouldn't be any such votes, since the committee is not authorizing or paying the money, so I have trouble seeing the conflict. I suppose a person could vote in a manner that causes the website to require more maintenance, if working as a contractor, but I think it's best to presume people will not be purposefully destructive - particularly those trusted enough to be hired as contractors in the first place. A conflict exists where a person votes on their own interests, but when it is mediated through "first I need to vote to break something" I see it as more remote.

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13 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

I would just point out that I have a nagging concern that this might be some kind of public body.  If so, it is probably subject to the state open meetings and ethics laws.  Those laws frequently define a conflict differently than RONR.

Good point, and I agree that if this is a public body, the situation changes (and goes beyond the scope of this forum).

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Guest Who's Coming to Dinner

No member should vote on a question in which he has a direct personal or pecuniary interest not common to other members of the organization.
RONR(11th ed.), p. 407, l. 22–25

Note that the member still has the right to vote and cannot be prevented from exercising it. As to the propriety of such a person remaining on the committee, that is for the appointing authority to determine.

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