A recent impassioned Anonymous Comment to the Global Planning Table -- Update Post, citing Kathy Manning's pre-GA quote in the Forward -- "One of the things we've lost over the years is the understanding of what our partners do, how they use our dollars to make a real impact on the needs that they deal with" -- observed "[F]or seven years Manning has sat on JAFI's Board of Governors and on its Executive" and called for he to "[G]et off the JAFI Dais." While that would be painful to Ms. Manning, it is hardly enough.
I had written about Manning's quote when it first appeared suggesting that the reason that any failure in "...understanding what our partners do..." has been JFNA's failure to advocate, failure to articulate what JAFI and the Joint do, failure to stand side-by-side with them. I compared her position with that of the hypothecated child who having killed both his parents now asks the court for mercy because she is an orphan. But the Comment itself raised an even more serious question of conflict of interest.
Each of us wears many hats in our roles in Jewish communal life -- our Federation Boards include agency lay leaders, we serve on the boards of the Joint, the Agency, ORT, etc, while serving on our federation Boards, we serve om the JFNA Board while on the Boards of other organizations. In the past, while some might accuse us of having conflicts by this service on multiple Boards, the reality was that our system was always pulling together. I, or you, could serve on, e.g., the Joint Board and our federation Board and on the UJA Board -- even, in earlier years, the JFNA Board, knowing that we shared a common purpose, a common passion and a common commitment. But, for the past six years, and, certainly, the past three years, the commonality of vision, purpose, passion and commitment have been rent asunder led by the leaders of JFNA.
Common definitions of "conflict of interest" include: (1) a situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a leader because of the possibility of a clash between the leader's self-interest (pecuniary or not) and the public interest the leader is to serve; and (2) a situation in which a party's responsibility to a second party limits its ability to discharge a responsibility to a third party.
The leaders of JFNA have a disqualifying conflict of interest in their service to JDC or the Jewish Agency that they have brought upon themselves. And, they know it. They demanded an agreement among JFNA, JAFI and JDC -- they got one one year ago and they have breached not only its intent and its good will but the good faith in which it was negotiated and executed. Over the past years they have schemed to create a Global Planning Table that, while not yet having even held a single meeting, dictates outcomes -- no longer is there even the sense of exclusivity of JAFI/JDC as "the partners" but the outright admission to "other partners." Where was this decided? By whom?
So, I had to laugh when I learned that one piece of the GPT Conference Call on December 19 consisted of a lecture by Ms. Manning on conflict of interest. She clearly hasn't a clue. Perhaps that's one of the reasons contributing to an irate Large City Executive asking at the end of that one hour call: "why did you waste my time?" When the public interest a lay Chair has been elected to serve (not the other way around) clashes with that leader's obligation, there is a conflict of interest requiring (1) recognition and (2) resignation. Ms. Manning, as Commentators to this Blog and correspondents directly to you have demanded: simply resign.