Conflict of Interest as Condo Board Member Becomes Association Employee

P.K. from Tolland County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

We have an issue where I believe it would be a conflict of interest for one of our board members to vote on an item.  We have five board members.  What happens if he is asked to remove himself from the vote and does so, only for there to be a tie?  The question at hand is his possible hiring as an employee.  Thank you.

Mister Condo replies:

P.K., I can’t imagine a more accurate description of the term “conflict of interest”. If I understand you correctly, this Board member would be voting on whether or not to hire himself as an employee of the association? Not only should he excuse himself from the vote, the Board needs to address the ongoing issue of his ability to remain impartial on future votes that may affect his employment. What if his performance is subpar? Will he be allowed to vote on whether or not to fire him? What if the association is thinking of taking on a new project like roofing that will involve him doing more work for the association? How can he remain impartial?

I understand that there may be no malice involved in his decision to work for the association. In fact, it is likely just the opposite. He may end up being one of the best workers the association has, seeing as he lives at the property as well and wants it to look its best. This is, at best, a slippery slope. At worst, it is a conflict of interest that could end up costing the association dearly.

My advice is that this individual needs to choose one path or the other. He can either serve on the Board as a VOLUNTEER or he can work for the association as an EMPLOYEE. Both are noble choices and both add value to the community. However, volunteer Board members need to be impartial for their own sake and for the sake of the community. I think he should abstain on the vote to hire him and he should also offer his resignation from the Board upon being hired by the association. Far better for the community to attract a new volunteer to serve on the Board than to face conflict of interest charges from the community. Even if there is no impropriety, the appearance of impropriety will surface and that can be quite detrimental to even well-intentioned Boards. Good luck!