On Conflicts of Interest, It’s Not Enough to Ask a Question

The annual meeting of the Whitewater University Tech Park Board was scheduled for this earlier morning, and the second item of the published agenda is a superficial attempt to address potential conflicts of interest among board members:

  1. Declaration of Conflict of Interest [Watson]

a. Would any member(s) of the board wish to declare any known conflict of interest with the items presented on today’s Tech Park Board Agenda?

(Watson refers to the university’s chancellor, Dr. Dwight Watson.)

An agenda item like this leaves the determination of conflicts with members of the board, themselves, and only ones that are somehow known to them.

A satisfactory effort to determine conflicts among board members would require, at a minimum, a comprehensive financial disclosure form with supporting documentation.

To my knowledge there has never been any requirement like that either on the tech board or the Whitewater Community Development Authority.  (One can confidently assume that these public bodies don’t now have such a requirement because there have been no reports of anyone from Whitewater’s landlord-banker clique spontaneously combusting.)

Simply asking the question isn’t enough; if anything, the mere question serves to forestall an adequate conflicts check (‘well, I did ask…’).

On conflicts of interest, it’s not enough only to ask a question.

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