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Discussion Starter #1
Here's the situation: I am on the board of a non-profit organization that has some money, but not too much money. We need to hire a consultant/outside contractor to do some specific tasks that no one in the organization is skilled enough to do. One of our board members told us at our last meeting that a friend of his is willing to help us for free. The unspoken quid pro quo would be that the friend would be asked to become a member of the board (there are some highly connected people on this board and I expect that the friend would like to network with them; if he could land one of them as a client the return would be far more significant than anything we could pay him). The friend has a good reputation in his field and would be the perfect person for the job. There is one problem, however. I believe that the friend is a wife beater and I want nothing to do with him. Given the way this board works and what the friend would be doing, I would have to interact with him on the project (and for a long time thereafter if he became a member of the board).

My knowledge of his wife beating is circumstantial, but strong. Several years ago, I worked in the same office with his then wife. During the course of the year that we worked in close proximity, she had several black eyes (she tried to conceal them with makeup), and once had visible bruises on her arms. The women in the office tried to discuss these things with her, but she always had some excuse for her injuries. Then she "fell down the steps," spent several days in the hospital and immediately separated from her husband.

I just don't want to deal with this scumbag. However, I have no good excuse for blackballing his working with the organization other than my belief of that he beat his wife approximately 15 years ago. If we were to hire another consultant it would cost us money and he is as qualified (or even more qualified) than the consultants that we otherwise would hire. If I breathe a word to anyone on the board about my belief that he is/was a wife beater and his reputation is harmed, I have no doubt that this guy would sue me (and probably beat me up, too).

What would you do if you were in my shoes?
 

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Speak up or quit. You gotta live with yourself....

MarkS said:
My knowledge of his wife beating is circumstantial, but strong.

I just don't want to deal with this scumbag.

What would you do if you were in my shoes?
....you don't have to live with him.
 

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I know how you feel. I used to work with an admitted child molester. It was hard. Every time I looked at him I wanted to beat the living crap out of him. Instead I had to look him in the eye, and shake his hand. I don't suppose I would do anything about it, unless I had the chance to speak to any woman he was dating/seeing/involved with.

I did have the great pleasure of scaring the crap out of a guy that was beating his girlfriend. I paid him a visit, I was as non-threatening as possible, and gave him the message that she was to never see him again. He got the message, without me actually threatening him. Since I am 6'7", and was about 320 pounds with a 20 inch neck that was mostly muscle, college football player, so I wasn't exactly non-threatening. Sometimes its good to be big.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Quitting probably is not the answer

MB1 said:
....you don't have to live with him.
I have been a board member for several years. Were I to quit the board, people who are on the board who know me well would want to know why and I could not lie to them. Unless someone comes up with some magic solution, I'm going to have to tell at least some board members why we should say "thanks, but, no thanks" to this offer of free consulting.
 

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Life Coach
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MB1's advice feels right at the gut level, but I would hestitate to act on it. One, if you can' t prove it he probably could (and would, if he's a wife-beating dick) sue you. Two, regardless of your being right or wrong, there's the old saying that no one likes a tattle-tale. MB1 & I would, of course, admire you, but we're not on the board. I can almost guarantee you that at least one other board member will react to your actions with distaste and maybe hostility.

Therefore, I would suggest arguing that quid-pro-quo deals are bad for the organization. When, not if, but when, word gets out about how this guy got a seat, those who hear it are going to jump to some unflattering conclusions:

1. The board is ok with nepotism.
2. The organization doesn't select its leaders very carefully.
a. Ability to guide the organization doesn't matter as much as ability to do day-to-day things the organization needs.
b. Organization is run by "friends," rather than "leaders."
3. The organization is bush-league and sort of lets anyone in.

Also, does the board want a member who doesn't really care about the organization as much as the ability to work deals in the boardroom? Does the board want to set a precedent for giving a seat to anyone who's handy? i.e. "My cousin can print up our flyers for free--so should I tell him to come to next week's meeting?" Seems an exageration, until someone realizes their down-on-their-luck cousin needs a networking oportunity.

Anyway, I think you can try to do this procedurally. If that don't work, THEN tell them he's a wife beater. Or resign.
 

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MarkS said:
I have been a board member for several years. Were I to quit the board, people who are on the board who know me well would want to know why and I could not lie to them. Unless someone comes up with some magic solution, I'm going to have to tell at least some board members why we should say "thanks, but, no thanks" to this offer of free consulting.
what if he is changed? 15yrs is a long time. if you are sure he is a woman beater and a coward.. speak up. if he sues you or beats you.. just stand the heat. being right ain't easy.
(beat up? i doubt it..)
 

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MarkS said:
Here's the situation: I am on the board of a non-profit organization that has some money, but not too much money. We need to hire a consultant/outside contractor to do some specific tasks that no one in the organization is skilled enough to do. One of our board members told us at our last meeting that a friend of his is willing to help us for free. The unspoken quid pro quo would be that the friend would be asked to become a member of the board (there are some highly connected people on this board and I expect that the friend would like to network with them; if he could land one of them as a client the return would be far more significant than anything we could pay him). The friend has a good reputation in his field and would be the perfect person for the job. There is one problem, however. I believe that the friend is a wife beater and I want nothing to do with him. Given the way this board works and what the friend would be doing, I would have to interact with him on the project (and for a long time thereafter if he became a member of the board).

My knowledge of his wife beating is circumstantial, but strong. Several years ago, I worked in the same office with his then wife. During the course of the year that we worked in close proximity, she had several black eyes (she tried to conceal them with makeup), and once had visible bruises on her arms. The women in the office tried to discuss these things with her, but she always had some excuse for her injuries. Then she "fell down the steps," spent several days in the hospital and immediately separated from her husband.

I just don't want to deal with this scumbag. However, I have no good excuse for blackballing his working with the organization other than my belief of that he beat his wife approximately 15 years ago. If we were to hire another consultant it would cost us money and he is as qualified (or even more qualified) than the consultants that we otherwise would hire. If I breathe a word to anyone on the board about my belief that he is/was a wife beater and his reputation is harmed, I have no doubt that this guy would sue me (and probably beat me up, too).

What would you do if you were in my shoes?
Does your board do background searches on people they work with? Might be time to start? There might just be some public criminal record of his prior abuses. That way, you'd avoid being sued and not have to work with someone you detest.

Probably wouldn't cost you, or the board, more than $200 to find something.

Good luck!
 

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Fini les ecrase-"manets"!
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OK. I'm on my third response. The other two were very long, but ultimately not helpful (so what else is new, I hear everyone asking), and I threw them away.

I think it boils down to this: You need to figure out what possible actions/outcomes will let you sleep at night, bearing in mind that every action will have more than one result, some unforeseeable.

Also bear in mind that you don't KNOW what this guy was up to. It looks terrible, that's for sure, but you don't know. What if she had a neurological disorder that caused her to fall a lot? What if being left by his wife was a wake-up call for him, and he's sought and completed treatment? Would you object so heartily to him if either of those things turned out to be true?

What are you willing to risk on your suspicion that he's an unrepentant wife beater? You're going to have to go on guesses, unfortunately, but I urge you to keep in mind that you ARE guessing, and wager accordingly.

In case anybody thinks I'm making excuses for the guy, I'm not. I think spousal abuse is horrible, and I think we're under some pretty serious obligation to report CURRENT suspicions to the proper authorities. I think that ship has sailed in this instance, though, with the fact that the suspicions are 15 years old, so Mark's left to compute the odds about what the truth is, and not much else.
 

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MarkS said:
Here's the situation: I am on the board of a non-profit organization that has not too much money. We need to hire a consultant/outside contractor to do some specific tasks that no one in the organization is skilled enough to do. One of our board members told us at our last meeting that a friend of his is willing to help us for free. The friend has a good reputation in his field and would be the perfect person for the job. There is one problem, however. I believe that the friend is a wife beater and I want nothing to do with him. Given the way this board works and what the friend would be doing, I would have to interact with him on the project (and for a long time thereafter if he became a member of the board).

My knowledge of his wife beating is circumstantial, that he beat his wife approximately 15 years ago.

Don't make it a public issue. Go along with it or if you can't, then quit for unspecified personal reasons. 15 years is a long time ago, and whatever happened then may be long over. Additionally, you didn't know the full circumstances. You saw her body bruises; yet could they have been a result of cruel emotional bruising which he had received from her? I just think from what you say, the whole matter is too distant and complex for you to justify being so harshly judgemental about him, especially 15 years down the line.

I might reconsider my response if you'd have more evidence of unprovoked violent behavior of a more recent vintage, and especially if there were other possible victims.

But without that, zip your lips. The statute of limitations has expired, unless you absolutely know more than you have said.
 

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gazing from the shadows
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What did you do when you saw the wife with bruises years ago? Anything? Or nothing? Or something, even if it was just offer to help?

If it was not bad enough to do something to protect her and possibly save her life then, why does your personal discomfort rate action today?

I would ask him about it in the interview process, emphasizing the "character is important in non profits" angle.... and mentioning avoiding the APPEARANCE of impropriety angle. I would ask him what would happen if the issue was raised and he was on the board.

You have lots of choices, and many are mentioned. Only you can decide what you can live with.
 

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you have a qualified privilege for your words within the group in the context of your duty to the group, although this is scant comfort, I understand, if the situation goes south and he sues. a qualified privilege means that you can express your thoughts even if harmful to him if are responsible about what you say -- you don't repeat rumors as fact, you don't try to harm him maliciously or even gratuitously, you are careful in your assumptions, etc.
you are on pretty strong ground if you stick to opinion. "He is a wife-beater," is not an opinion. "His wife covered up black eyes" is also not an opinion, but it is possibly verifiably true, as long as you are careful about not connecting the dots for everyone. "His wife covered up what in my opinion were black eyes," is more like an opinion, although I'm not crazy about it.
"I don't like him; I get a weird vibe from him; his personal demeanor bothers me I don't want to work with him," -- these are opinions.
If you believe he is an abuser of women, you likely have a responsibility to keep him away from your organization.
this is getting more complicated, eh?
I agree with the background check advice. I think you owe yourself and your organization at least that much.
Although if he finds out, and you have other wife-beaters around that you didn't check up on, you may be in tough shape there, too.
 

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say -- you don't repeat rumors as fact, you don't try to harm him maliciously or even gratuitously, you are careful in your assumptions, etc.
actually, a qualified privige theoretically provides more protection than this -- but I was giving you the safer harbors. A qualified privilege means basically that you are protected as long as you don't say things that you know are false.
 

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I've tried to answer this 3 times.......

but each time I deleted my post.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not objective about this topic. I lived with a spouse abuser (my Dad) until my Mom Died when I was 18.

That being said, it seems to me that you have presented this as a conflict between your responsibility to the board & your responsibility to yourself. That is real. The question is, forced to choose between the two, which one is more important?

A few questions:

1.) Can you contact the wife now and see if you're recollection is correct and has he changed? Spousal abuse awareness has changed dramatically in the last 15 years.....for all you know, they may have confronted the issue, & he may be a different guy.

2.) If the answer to #1 is no, or if you contact her & find out she left him because of his abuse & he hasn't changed, then I think the right thing to do....and it will be hard......is to tell him that you won't support his candidacy and why, and that if he pursues it, you will make the board aware of your concerns. (Your a lawyer, you know how to do this without subjecting yourself to legal risk). He will huff & puff & probably get threatening but Men who abuse women are cowards in general and more likely than not, he will withdrawal his candidacy.

Mark, you are a stand up guy.....I don't see you personally satisfied with either working with him without resolving these suspicions or quitting and leaving the board to fend for itself......I think the only way you can live with yourself is to be straight up with him.

just my .02....if you want more of my personal experience in this area, PM me.

Len

Upon further review........after thinking about this, one other thing Mark......if you are going to contact the wife, be prepared, just in case she does confide in you, to give her some place to deal with whatever feelings your questions bring up. There are many support groups out there for this now....the state can give you links to counselors and groups that you should have handy, in case she is ready.
 

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I sympathize w/you, but you have to be certain

I don't mean to excuse or condone any part of his behavior, but you have to consider that you might be ruining a guy's life and reputation without cause.
We had a similar situation when my daughter was in 8th grade. A friend who was a public health nurse called to warn us that we were on the list for a "child welfare visit" the next day, a surprise call by social workers which probably would have resulted in our daughter being put in foster care.
We had no previous record and no idea there was anything going on. I launched a pre-emptive strike, called the head of the department and went in with my wife and both kids for a meeting. They wouldn't allow my daughter to talk while I was in the room, or let me talk while she was there, but interviewed all four of us separately. It took two or three days to reconcile, and I think only our friend's intervention made it go away then.
. We never did never did get a full explanation, but apparently it snowballed from a teacher seeing bruises and overhearing something about "my father did it." My daughter was playing on two soccer teams, and I was an Army medic and used to clean up her road rash and put ice packs on her contusions. The scary part was that even when she insisted there'd been no abuse, they didn't believe her and were still talking about her "spending a few weeks away from home." It's one of the worst experiences of my life, because we seemed to be helpless.
 

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Then say something.

MarkS said:
I have been a board member for several years. Were I to quit the board, people who are on the board who know me well would want to know why and I could not lie to them. Unless someone comes up with some magic solution, I'm going to have to tell at least some board members why we should say "thanks, but, no thanks" to this offer of free consulting.
"I am uncomfortable with this," should work if your board respects you as much as we do.

OTOH if they have seen you with your shirt off as we have perhaps they have different thoughts...... :D
 

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MB1 said:
"I am uncomfortable with this," should work if your board respects you as much as we do.
great post MB.
 

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My 2 cents... FWIW

Len, I would have not expected anything less as your response. You, as always have a very special and intuitive insight.

Cory, right on...

MB1, nothing but honesty!

Here's my pitch:

As a recovering boozer and whatever else, (yes folks, I'm trying to change life and one important thing is that I have chosen to drug myself into ignorance of how I really feel about things.) One of most important things I have learned over the last few months and from a few years of, let's say, over indulgence of pain killers, is that the choices I make are what makes the difference. I can choose to ignore the fact that I have a problem or I can choose to realize I have a problem. What I am seeing here, with you, Mark, is that you are having a problem making the choice of what you need to do. The answer, unfortunately, is only one you can find. Do what I do, a cost benefit analysis... what will the cost be if I ignore the problem or the question, and what are the benefits if I do what I think is right? You suspect this guy to have an abusive background but that was a long time ago. Can he change? Yes! Has he? Only he can answer that? Your delima is that you are trying to do what you think is best for everyone. Ask the right questions to the right people and you'll find the right answer. It's a choice only you can make!

Trust yourself... you'll do the right thing!

EDB
 

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MB1 said:
"I am uncomfortable with this," should work ..... :D

Sorry, but that's not good enough without further elaboration. Which could backfire on him if he elaborates. MarkS's got to ask himself - what would making it an issue do? Help his own peace of mind? How would whatever happened 15 years ago at home have any bearing on this guy's involvement with the agency today? Answer that first before crying "WOLF!"
 
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