Conflict of interest sparks controversy for Feds

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Before the start of the Feds election campaigning period, two candidates — Danielle Burt and Maaz Yasin, both of Team Spark — withdrew from their duties on the Feds Board of Directors (BoD) for the two-week campaign period, citing a conflict of interest (COI).


Two other candidates, Jesse McGinnis and Luke McIntosh of Team Nova, are also BoD members — McIntosh is the chair — however they chose not to withdraw and have continued participating in the board throughout the campaign period.


Yasin and Burt are both relatively new to the BoD, having been elected at the Feds general meeting in October.


“I didn’t want to use such a high level position in the organization…towards my advantage in the election,” said Burt, Team Spark’s presidential candidate.


“What Feds board deals with has very little overlap with what’s happening in the election,” said McGinnis, Team Nova’s presidential candidate. “The definition of a conflict of interest is that you have perceived or real benefit from an action,” he added.


McGinnis says that there was no need for himself or McIntosh to declare a COI for the full campaign period, but rather they can abstain from specific issues and votes having to do with the election and proceed as usual with other board issues and activities.


McGinnis said that so far one election related issue has been brought up with the board, “It was a procedural thing having to do with the new voting system — when that came up we declared a conflict of interest and left the room for that particular issue.”


“Both of us feel not to drop any of our already elected duties [sic],” said McIntosh referring to himself and McGinnis. “We owe it to the students who elected us to continue our duties as part of the board of directors,” he added.


“We were picked for a reason, someone wanted our angle, our view, and our voice at that body and it would be a disservice to the people who elected us to step down,” said McGinnis.


According to Item 18.4 of the Feds Board of Directors procedures:


“Directors who have an actual, perceived, or potential conflict of interest, with respect to any matter under consideration by the board, or a committee or body thereof, shall declare the nature and extent of the interest immediately, withdraw from the meeting when the matter is being discussed, and refrain from taking part in any discussion or vote in relation to the matter.”


“It’s unfortunate that there is a difference in opinion on the existence of conflicts of interest during the campaign period,” said Adam Garcia, current Feds VP education.


Current director, David Birnbaum, clearly stated his opposition to candidates citing COIs in a letter to the board of directors.


“In no definition of the term is campaigning a conflict of interest with general serving on the board,” said Birnbaum. “You are directors of the Federation, and that role should come first,” he added. Birnbaum’s letter encourages Burt and Yasin to reconsider their decision.


Burt defended her decision to <em>Imprint</em> saying there was a miscommunication about the reasoning of her withdrawal.


&ldquo;I think the other side is that I was using an excuse of the campaign to get out of my duties as a board of director and that is completely not what I was intending to do,&rdquo; said Burt.


It has been common in the years past for directors who are running in the election to remove themselves from board discussions,&rdquo; said Yasin, citing Andrew Noble, former Feds president, as an example.


One board meeting took place during the period that Yasin and Burt withdrew. Yasin however still attended the meeting and sat in the gallery, not participating.


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