NCRA Conflict of Interest Policy
The legal duty to act in the organization’s best interests.
NCRA directors, officers, committee members, staff, and other volunteers face both a legal and an ethical obligation to base their actions and decisions solely on what is in the best interests of NCRA, in accordance with applicable state and federal laws and regulations. Actions should not be influenced by personal considerations. Even the appearance of a conflict of interest must be avoided.
Duality of interests are common and do not necessarily create a conflict.
Individuals often have fully legitimate responsibilities to more than one board or organization. Such duality of interests do not necessarily create actual or even perceived conflicts. It is generally only when some specific issue arises in which both organizations have a direct interest that an actual conflict exists.
Curing the conflict.
If such a situation develops, a range of actions can be taken to remove the conflict. Often, simple disclosure of the potential conflict, allowing the board to act in a fully informed and aware manner, is sufficient. Often, the board or committee member may be asked to recuse themselves, or not participate in any discussions or actions on the issue for which the conflict exists. Rarely but occasionally, if the conflict is serious enough in nature, the board or committee member must be prepared to resign or otherwise remove themselves from the position of decision-making authority with the conflicting interest, if the NCRA Board should determine it is necessary for them to do so.
The Board/Committee, not the individual, determines if a conflict exists and, if so, what action is necessary.
It is not for the individual member of a board or committee to decide whether a conflict exists. That determination lies with the board/committee itself. For the board or committee to make such an assessment and exercise its corporate responsibility to avoid conflicts of interest, all of its members must disclose any dualities of interest. This is done annually through the individual’s completion of the attached disclosure form.
If, in the course of the conduct of its business, the board or committee enters into discussions that raise a concern for an individual that a duality of interest (whether previously disclosed or not) creates a potential conflict, the individual should immediately disclose (or remind) the board/committee leadership of the matter so it can be immediately addressed and resolved.
Actions to cure a potential conflict are not a judgment on the individual.
It is important to stress that the existence of a conflict of interest and the actions taken to resolve that conflict are not punitive in nature nor are they in any way a negative reflection on the affected board or committee member’s ethics, commitment to NCRA, or personal prudence. It is unrealistic to expect a volunteer leader to have no interests or commitments outside of his or her service on an NCRA board or committee. In fact, limiting service to individuals with absolutely no outside interests or experiences would not only be impractical, it would be detrimental to the quality and expertise of the board or committee.
Exercising care in disclosing all dualities of interest and abiding by the board or committee’s decision on whether a conflict exists and how it should be cured (e.g; fully cooperating in a board or committee’s decision that an individual should recuse themselves) is a sign of the highest ethical sensibilities.
Actions, such as recusal, also are not a reflection on the individual’s ability to act in an objective or impartial manner. The integrity of volunteer leaders is not in question.
However, as U.S. District Court Judge Edward Weinfeld expressed in a November 1982 opinion regarding a judge’s duty to recuse him- or herself, “Despite the Court’s subjective view that all matters can be resolved impartially, a judge has an independent duty to disqualify himself ‘in any proceeding in which impartiality might reasonably be questioned.’ The issue is not the Court’s own introspective capacity to sit in fair and honest judgment ... but whether a reasonable member of the public ... might fairly question the Court’s impartiality. This is an objective standard and ‘where the question is close, the judge whose impartiality might reasonably be questioned must recuse himself.’”
Conflicts of Interest defined
(Revised by Board Action: November 10, 2003).
A conflict of interest occurs whenever an individual has a direct or indirect interest, financial or otherwise, in the outcome of any transaction or matter involving NCRA. A conflict of interest also occurs whenever an individual has a relationship with other parties to the transaction or matter such that the relationship might reasonably be expected to affect the judgment of the individual in the particular transaction or matter in a manner adverse to NCRA.
Conflicts of interest are not limited to formal financial partnerships or arrangements. Any management position or leadership role with decision-making authority (whether voluntary or for compensation) with any board, business network, consulting contract, or other business arrangement in the court reporting profession or related professional specialties (e.g.; CART, captioning) could potentially give rise to a conflict.
Depending upon the immediacy and seriousness of the conflict, a number of resolutions are possible. If the conflict is minimal, highly qualified, or only potential, it may be cured through nothing more than disclosure of the interest and a pledge to remain objective and neutral to it. Other conflicts are more serious and may require the board or committee member to remove him- or herself from any involvement in the Association’s discussions or decision making on the matter. (This is called recusal.) In rare cases, conflicts are so immediate and serious that resignation from the board, committee, or other Association assignment is the only prudent means of avoiding the conflict.
It is the prerogative of the board, not the individual, to determine how severe a conflict is and the appropriate steps that must be taken to remedy it. Accordingly, disclosure of all relationships outside of the individual’s official association role that could potentially create a conflict is critical to the organization’s effective enforcement of appropriate conflict-of-interest policies.
If an individual has a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest in connection with any NCRA transaction or matter, he or she should immediately notify the President, Executive Director, or other appropriate NCRA representative and disclose all the material facts concerning the actual or potential conflict of interest and his or her relationship to the transaction or matter at issue.
If the conflict of interest arises in connection with the activities of any deliberative body (e.g., the Board of Directors), the conflict should be disclosed to the other members of the body and the individual ordinarily should not participate in the consideration of the transaction or matter at issue. If the conflict of interest arises in connection with a workshop, seminar, or other such program, the individual may be authorized to participate, provided that he or she agrees to disclose to the other participants and attendees the facts giving rise to the conflict and clearly identifies his or her remarks as personal opinion. If the conflict arises in connection with an NCRA publication, the article, book, or other material may be published with an appropriate disclosure to the reader.