Conflict of interest

Last year a friend of mine—an artist, art patron and chief volunteer for local arts organization “A"—took a job as the director of art gallery “B,” which seemed like a good fit.

The outfit doing the hiring, namely gallery B, demanded that he cease and desist as president of the board of directors of that other place—organization A. Taking on two such jobs at once might’ve been asking for exhaustion anyway, but why do you suppose gallery B insisted on such an unfriendly and fear-based requirement as the avoidance of the appearance of a conflict of interest or some other lawyerly slab of words? Not that there was or ever would be a conflict of interest for the chosen one. My friend wanted the job, took the pledge, and untangled himself from A.

In what B’s board apparently perceived as a zero-sum game, they were afraid that the applicant they’d decided to give money to and rely on for the operation of everything they do might somehow short-change them. In asking for money from the mighty Chico Arts Commission, for instance, B’s request might be for less than it so deeply deserved, so as to leave room for A’s extravagance.

There’s actually a coherence of interest—oh my god, there might be synergy!—in being deeply involved in two organizations devoted to one’s passion. I doubt that a conscious sort of person can have a conflict of interest, because everything he does will be consistent.

Maybe B is insane. Nonprofit boards of directors often take the direct part more seriously than salutary or necessary for the organization or themselves. Then the compulsion to direct something or somebody, no matter what, seems to make directors paranoid, looking for enemies behind the sofa and conflict where there isn’t any. Lots of organizations, especially businesses—their only goal is money, not enough for emotional health—are insane, busily alienating their constituency and extinguishing themselves.

All governments are insane, stealing and murdering and preaching simultaneously.

I can understand a groom expecting his bride to forgo hot, nasty sex with others just because that’s what he’s heard, even though “Til death do us part” is obviously too long, and is indicative of low-level insanity—a widespread affliction, like obesity and patriotism. And with nonprofit organizations, wanting an employee to avoid similar groups is paranoid at best and probably just flat-out crazy. Did I mention that the job was only part-time?

When I find a new friend, I don’t get rid of another. Do you?