Promotions and Conflicts of Interest

I noticed my co-worker, friend, and PASS board member, Grant Fritchey, posted a note on members of the PASS Board of Directors (BoD) presenting pre-cons at SQL Saturday events. It’s potentially a legal issue, and conflict of interest. I’m glad that the issue is being raised, and discussed publically. Here’s Grant’s question:

The question is simple, for a PASS branded event, should a member of the PASS board receive payment?

There’s two parts to this, because there are two events. There are events that the organization runs and takes legal and financial responsibility for, and there are events associated with PASS, but run by others who have responsibility.

My short answer is yes to local events, and no to events run by the PASS board. I’ve read through some of the comments and I have some thoughts.

PASS Run Events

First, events run by the organization, such as the Summit and BAC, are different. The BoD can vote on aspects of these events, and can override the decisions on which individuals are chosen. With that being the case, I think there is a clear conflict of interest here and for the limited time the BoD members serve, they should not be a part of these events. Whether they receive direct payment or not, I’d say no.

There was a conflict about this a few years ago, and I think it was justified. If you serve, you can’t present a pre-conference (or post) session. You have other duties, and a responsibility here.

If your business or your employer wants you to be a part of this event in a different way, resign one position or the other.

SQL Saturdays

Really this could be any event that PASS might support or lend their name to, but doesn’t have any financial (or likely, legal) responsibility. This is trickier, as certainly the ability to bestow favors on the organizers of these events in terms of choosing them for PASS run events is possible. However I’d say that this is very unlikely, and hasn’t been an abuse of power. If that changes, I’d change my opinion

I think that the BoD members are still speakers and well respected trainers, and I really have no issue with them being accepted to present a pre-con and being paid by the events. I’d like the fact disclosed, but this doesn’t seem to be a conflict of interest to me at this point.

It’s also good for the community.

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4 Responses to Promotions and Conflicts of Interest

  1. rsterbal says:

    Are they excluded from having their expenses reimbursed as well?


    • way0utwest says:

      Do you mean for traveling to the Summit or BAC, Robert? I’d say no. Expenses for travel (food/hotel/transport) is a part of their duty as a BoD. They should have this paid for by the organization. However participating or accepting money from PASS-run events isn’t appropriate.

      For SQL Saturdays, or similar events, the local organizer can certainly decide to pay expenses to have anyone come and speak. Whether that someone is a BoD member, a speaker like myself, or really anyone, I think that’s a local decision.

      I do think all these decisions should be transparent, at least for the people that are members of the organization (PASS, local UG, etc).


  2. rsterbal says:

    The degree of transparency for a non profit varies from the year behind Form 990 to the every expenditure disclosure that the wiki farm I use does: (you could do the same for a larger organization on a google doc)

    How do you define transparent?


  3. way0utwest says:

    Transparent is disclosed. PASS should disclose to membership where and how directors are reimbursed and amounts. There have certainly been what I consider excessive expenditures for travel as a group, and we, as members, should be able to view what is being spent.

    For local events, the group should disclose this to membership the same way. Publish the costs and decisions for review.


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