Thursday, October 14, 2010

Secret #25: The Chair is the Board's spokesperson

The Board needs to speak with one voice

In general, the Board's spokesperson is the person who has been elected by his/her peers as the Chair.

It's important that there be a common understanding early on regarding Board communications and public statements to avoid difficulties later.  As issues are being considered, all points of view should be considered and welcomed.  But once a vote is taken, the entire Board is bound to accept the collective decision even if a particular Trustee(s) was not in agreement.  Unltimately, if the Board makes a decision that an individual Trustee cannot accept, then the best course for that Trustee would be to resign.

When new issues develop, the media will often contact Trustees for comment.  These should be handled with care.  Reporters love to report conflicts, and trustees would be wise not to make public comments that allow the Board to be portrayed as divided.   The reverse is also true- the Board Chair ought to be cautious about making comments on issues that the Board has not yet had an opportunity to discuss or take a position on.

For an example of the difficulties that can result when one trustee goes off on their own agenda, consider the case of the Calgary Catholic School Board and one of their trustees, Michael O'Malley.  The situation there got so bad, that the school board had to go to court to have Mr. O'Malley removed.

In the case of labour negotiations, the usual practice is to identify one of the Board's senior administrators as spokesperson.  And in larger boards, like Edmonton Public, an official such as the Director of Communications often handles media queries that are not of a political or governance nature.

No comments:

Post a Comment