[Osmf-talk] Conflict of interest (was: Remarks and question regarding board meeting minutes and circulars)

Andy Allan gravitystorm at gmail.com
Wed Dec 19 10:59:06 UTC 2018

On Wed, 19 Dec 2018 at 01:23, Frederik Ramm <frederik at remote.org> wrote:

> A frequent issue is also that "you have a conflict of interest" sounds
> like an accusation and is perceived by some as such. A good
> conflict-of-interest framework should benefit the organisation and the
> individual but conflict of interest rules are sometimes seen as going
> "against" an individual, "disqualifying" them from participation. Even
> the term "conflict" itself is of course negatively connotated. Ways have
> to be found to make conflict of interest resolution a routine issue and
> not an accusation levelled against an individual.


It's perfectly natural to have conflicts of interest. It's something
that happens routinely, and it should be seen as such and handled as
"no big deal". In fact, if the Board went a whole year without having
any declared conflicts of interest, I'd be concerned that either the
wrong people are running the show, or the wrong topics are being

It's important that everyone remembers that there's a wide gap between
having a declared conflict of interest, and of acting improperly. I
think Wikipedia summaries it reasonably well:

"The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the
occurrence of impropriety. Therefore, a conflict of interest can be
discovered and voluntarily defused before any corruption occurs. A
conflict of interest exists if the circumstances are reasonably
believed (on the basis of past experience and objective evidence) to
create a risk that a decision **may** be unduly influenced by other,
secondary interests, and not on whether a particular individual is
actually influenced by a secondary interest. "

I believe that the board should minute whenever anyone declares a
conflict of interest. The decision about what action to take (such as
recusing yourself from the discussion and/or the voting), if any, can
be made separately. Often no action is warranted since the declared
conflict of interest if often synonymous with "experience", or is
otherwise unlikely to lead to any impropriety. But in the interests of
transparency, all CoIs should be minuted, so that members know that
they were openly declared at the time of the meeting.

I believe Mikel was wrong to say "Therefore CoI was not a factor." The
conflict of interest existed (and that's fine and there's nothing
wrong with that). If the board decided that the nature of the CoI was
such that the affected members could still discuss and vote on the
matter, that's fine too. But you can't dismiss the CoI itself, and
attempting to do so can lead to misunderstandings. Better to say
"there was a CoI declared, and it was decided in this case that no
action was warranted".


More information about the osmf-talk mailing list