The Ethics of Transparency

A couple of days ago, I was in a meeting where we were discussing said group’s financials. At the initiation of the meeting, the group’s president said that they were interested in doing everything “on the up and up” and wanted nothing but “complete transparency”.

A man stands scratching his head, trying to decide if he should go in the direction of ethical or legal.
Ethical vs. Legal

Further into the discussion, facts were presented that were known by some, but not all present. (All facts are stated below. I did not engage in cherry picking.)

  • Said group’s president is also owner/CEO of the only company that is financially benefited by the group’s fundraising activities.
  • There is no SOW/contract in place between the group and that company. This one way financial relationship has existed for years.
    • Consequently, there is no way to justify expenses to any of the group’s current/future financial contributors.
  • The president of the group possesses a debit card linked to the group’s bank account.
  • The group’s mission is unclear.
  • The president of the group asserted that the group’s mission should be to provide the service that their company specializes in.

Following this, the president of the group stated, in a very loud voice:

  • they did not want any other company to even be considered as another possible business partner, and that personal offense was felt at the very thought of it
  • they had spoken to [unnamed] lawyers and CPAs who said this financial structure was perfectly “legal”
  • that any group members who did want to consider other business partners may need to rethink their group membership status

You can see how all of this looks, can’t you?

For a president of a group to say that they want to be transparent is great. That’s what we all hope to hear from leaders. However, when unethical behaviors and bad decisions are discovered, and for the leader to threaten group members with removal from the group because they want to make some changes/improvements- what is that?

I think I know. What do you think? Are unethical decisions and behaviors ‘OK’ as long as everyone can see them?

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