Column: Point of Order

Does CFA payments to board members of charter schools constitute conflicts of interest?

I attend a lot of meetings. Over time I have gained appreciation for the parliamentary procedure or Robert’s Rules of Order for its ability to keep the meeting moving forward in an orderly fashion.

Parliamentary procedure is based on the consideration of the rights of the majority, the rights of the minority (especially a large minority greater than one-third), the rights of individual members, the rights of absentee members, and the rights of all of these groups taken together.

However, there are times that the procedure goes awry and someone must call a point of order to restore order. More formally, in parliamentary procedure, a point of order is when someone draws attention to a rules violation in a meeting of a deliberative assembly.

No doubt this happens from time to time in any group, but lately I have observed:

  • The Department of Social Services addressing a matter that was not on the agenda,
  • The Town Council of Rutherfordton calling a closed session without citing the NCGS reason for it.
    (c)       Calling a Closed Session. – A public body may hold a closed session only upon a motion duly made and adopted at an open meeting. Every motion to close a meeting shall cite one or more of the permissible purposes listed in subsection (a) of this section. A motion based on subdivision (a)(1) of this section shall also state the name or citation of the law that renders the information to be discussed privileged or confidential. A motion based on subdivision (a)(3) of this section shall identify the parties in each existing lawsuit concerning which the public body expects to receive advice during the closed session.
  • The Lake Lure Classical Academy Board of Directors went into a closed session when they did not have to. Neither did they cite the appropriate N.C. general statute.
  • Partially at issue was the revelation that the Challenge Foundation Academy(CFA) board member had not cited his generous payment by CFA to attend meetings as a possible conflict of interest. The Directors were to vote on whether to continue a contract with CFA.

In the Lake Lure Classical Academy board meeting, it appeared to the media present that the CFA representative did not want to make the amount of his CFA payment public. However, several members commented that they did not know of the payment or the possible conflict of interest. The confirmation of payments made to CFA representatives sitting on charter schools boards may pose a greater conflict of interest to all CFA charter schools.

Does a rumored $1500 per meeting payment affect the CFA representative’s vote on whether to continue the relationship with CFA?

Organizations are required to have conflicts of interest statements on file.

According to the website, the following people are said to sit on charter school boards for the year 2017-2018:

2017–18 TeamCFA Board Representatives

Aristotle Preparatory Academy

Jason Cole

Brevard Academy

Jim Bishop

Coastal Preparatory Academy

Gregg Sinders

Cornerstone Charter Academy

Erina Byers

Ethos Academy

John Pirrone

Excelsior Classical Academy

Jason Lefler

Hirsch Academy

John Pirrone

Indianapolis Academy of Excellence

Andrew Bloch, Keyon Whiteside

Lake Lure Classical Academy

Warren Alston

New Dimensions School

Gary Webster

Piedmont Community Charter School

Mark Franklin

Pine Springs Preparatory Academy

Gregg Sinders

Pioneer Preparatory School

Cathy Pirrone

Rock Creek Community Academy

Drew Bloch

Shining Rock Classical Academy

Larry Wilkerson

Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy 

Paul Foley

Unity Classical Charter School

Jason Cole

VERITAS Community School

Gary Webster

Western School of Science & Technology

Cathy Pirrone 

Opening 2018:

Carolina Charter Academy

Gregg Sinders

Davidson Charter Academy

Gregg Sinders

Finally the duties of nonprofit board members as providing financial foresight, insight and oversight.

As part of a board member’s oversight, they are responsible for hiring the executive director if there is one, and setting his or her compensation. They also have specific duties:

  • Duty of care means ensures a prudent approach to using assets, including facilities, people and goodwill.
  • Duty of loyalty means making decisions in the best interest of the nonprofit and not themselves.
  • Duty of obedience means that board members must know and follow the local, state and federal laws regarding nonprofit organizations. They must also make sure that members of the nonprofit act ethically, while adhering to the stated mission and purpose of the organization.
  • Within these duties, nonprofit board members need to oversee the business and fundraising activities of the nonprofit.

While serving as a board member may be an honor, it is also a duty and commitment. Knowing the proper procedures for board members is imperative. While board training is done for members, perhaps a good investment for the chairs is to purchase Robert’s Rules For Dummies.