MEETING DISTURBANCES AND EMERGENCIES

Two personal experiences as a background In 2014, a meeting of an organisation that had abandoned its previous meeting because of disorder was debating whether to appoint me as an independent chairman when one of those opposing my appointment had a heart attack, and the meeting was temporarily (but rather informally) adjourned for some 20 minutes while we waited for an ambulance to arrive to take the gentleman to hospital. After I was elected to chair the meeting one participant found it almost impossible to follow my rulings and I had to threaten to have him removed by the police (the Police station was, conveniently, next-door). On 22 February 2011 I was eight minutes into chairing a meeting a block away from the Christchurch Cathedral. Following the earthquake, I had no hesitation in adjourning the meeting (it was resumed some three hours later when we found safe refuge elsewhere).   A chairperson’s obligations and powers in the event of disorder A chairperson has ultimate responsibility for the proper conduct of, and maintenance of order at, a meeting. Where one or more individuals disrupt the meeting the chairperson may ignore them, ask them to leave or have them removed. As stated in a long-standing New Zealand Court decision, Wilkie v Kiely (1914) 33 NZLR 816 at 818 – “Clearly there must be an inherent power in every meeting to maintain order, otherwise the business could not proceed, and if a person persists in being disorderly he may be removed from the meeting. This, I think, exists as a right independent of the liability of a person who interrupts a meeting...

NOT-FOR-PROFITS – PROTECTION OF VULNERABLE CHILDREN – A NEW COMPLIANCE ISSUE

Vulnerable Children Act 2014 imposes burdens on community organisations The requirements under the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 have added significantly to the burdens placed on community organisations. Writing (and, now, revising) this article has not been easy, and if a lawyer finds it challenging to explain legislation it is probably fair to say that many (most?) community organisations struggle to understand and comply with their obligations. For the purposes of the Vulnerable Children Act 2014: A “child” is defined as a person under the age of 18 who is not married or in a civil union, while “vulnerable children” are defined as “children of the kind or kinds (that may be or, as the case requires, have been and are currently) identified as vulnerable in the setting of Government priorities under section 7” of the Act. “Work” means “paid work” or “unpaid work that is undertaken as part of an educational or vocational training course” which “takes place without a parent or guardian of the child, or of each child, being present” (and a “worker” is defined similarly in section 23 of the Act).   Managing risks associated with children – a balancing act No-one wants children to be at risk, but minimising that risk creates an administrative nightmare for not-for-profits. According to an early Departmental publication (“Children’s worker safety checking under the Vulnerable Children Act 2014” available here): The Government’s Children’s Action Plan includes a commitment to implement legislation for the vetting and screening of the children’s workforce – these “children’s worker safety checks” became law in the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 (the VCA), and came into force for...

Selections to a team or group to represent a society

What most commonly prompts me to write most of my articles about not-for-profits is reading about issues that have arisen (in the media or in a report of a Court case), but this present article has been prompted by personal experience. It is common for many group sporting and cultural activities to be organised by societies, with participants being members of the society established to facilitate the playing of a sport or involvement in a cultural activity. Participation is commonly based on one of two alternatives: Participation is open to “all comers” – as in a social golf tournament, a mah jong group, or an un-auditioned musical group, or Participation is subject to some screening process – as in selection for sports teams, auditions to act in a play, or for a place in a choir or orchestra (in which case the selector will also usually determine what each participant does), or by assignment to play or participate in a “grade” (as in the case of a bridge club, for instance). I have for many years sung in a community choir where the singers are not auditioned (and the practices and performances may therefore suffer if some singers cannot sing in tune or in time!). Recently (the personal experience to which I referred above) I auditioned for and was accepted into an auditioned choir – and this experience lead me to consider the implications for society membership where members are “selected” and may later be “deselected,” and, especially, the possible “rights” of people aggrieved by not being selected, or by being assigned to participate in some way they do...

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST – SHORT GUIDE

Defining the problem Conflicts of interest: Includes not just financial conflicts, and can arise in many other ways, especially through friendships and family relationships, and May arise because of a pecuniary or personal interest or because of some element of bias or predetermination in the mind of a decision-maker. Bias is a type of conflict of interest: Describes a situation where a decision-maker may not have an open mind on or may have predetermined an issue, and May be presumed where there is real possibility of bias, or may be clear from the behaviour of a decision-maker, noting that The actual motives and good faith of the decision-maker are not relevant. Predetermination is a type of bias: Describes situations where the decision-maker has (or might be considered to have) a “closed mind” and is therefore unable to come to an issue willing to be influenced by facts or logic to make a decision either way. Personal or financial interests: If a decision-maker has any personal or financial interest greater than other decision-makers that person may be considered to be biased or to have pre-determined the issue.   Declaring an interest or standing aside Where a decision-maker has a conflict of personal or financial interests, and therefore is or might be biased: The person should “declare an interest” or stand aside and not participate in decision-making, Preferably, should not take part in discussion prior to any decision (but sometimes such people have essential information which needs to be made available to the actual decision-makers), and Should not vote.   Conflicts of interest in governance and management Those who “govern” should...

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST, BIAS AND PREDETERMINATION IN SOCIETIES AND CHARITIES – RECOGNISING AND MANAGING

The issues Problems relating to conflicts of interest, bias and predetermination arise in not-for-profits, not just in local authorities, statutory boards, and commercial entities. People are usually elected or appointed to decision-making positions for either or both of the following reasons: They are believed to have expertise in the area where decisions are to be made, or They hold cogent or well-known or vote-catching positions about some or all of the subjects on which decisions will be made. Such people may be expected to have opinions on the issues they consider, and they have the right and duty to advance those opinions in the interests of the organisation they govern. Democracy would be the poorer if they were not, on occasions, strong advocates for their opinions. As such, they are fully entitled to express their opinions in debate, not only around a decision-making table but also elsewhere. As a matter of public policy, however, there should be no doubt about the purity of decision-making, and someone who is to take part in decision-making should avoid becoming subject to allegations of conflicts of interest, bias or predetermination. “Conflicts of interest”: Extend beyond financial conflicts, and can arise in many other more subtle and indirect ways, especially through friendships and family relationships, and May arise because of a pecuniary or personal interest or because of some element of bias or predetermination in the mind of a decision-maker. “Bias” is a type of conflict of interest: In the legal sense it describes a situation where a decision-maker may not have approached an issue with an open mind, or may have predetermined the...