Sunday, August 5, 2012


"This really should be a clarion call to trustees across the country to ask questions, to demand answers, to insist that the President is responsible to them, not the other way around...For too long, the boards have been viewed more as boosters than as legal fiduciaries." These were among the demands of the report by Louis Freeh arising out of his investigation of the conduct of so many at Penn State University who created an environment in which Jerry Sandusky could engage in the most horrific criminal actions. This was a Board that stands accused of forgetting its fiduciary responsibilities...of just "going along."

And, of course, we know that in our own Jewish organizational part of the world, there is a pandemic of boosterism that, while of course not leading to the worst brutality, has produced its own set of institutional abuses that threaten organizational integrity. The lay leaders of one beloved organization of ours stood idly by while its professionals operated as if the organization was theirs...until its lay officers suddenly realized what it had permitted to take place and those perceived as great professionals for so long, who gave so much to the organization, were dismissed. To this day, this organization has hidden the facts behind the walls it has built.

Another organization provided its Board with so little information and decision-making input, that American federation leaders on its Board were in open revolt. And, to its credit, that organization's leaders have taken actions that promise greater engagement and communication.

And, then, there is JFNA. Of course. A place where significant financial investments can be and are made by Committees with no authorization to do so. A place where the line items of a Budget can be ignored and where the Budget itself is viewed as merely a framework for spending $30.3 million on anything its professional and lay leaders determine. And, a place where, if a lay person asks a question of leadership, in the proper exercise of fiduciary duty, the questioner is relegated to the status of outlier or worse. Over three years ago, a lay person I greatly respected told me that "any one who publicly questions leadership should resign from the JFNA Board." When, two and one-half years ago, a Budget and Finance Committee member began to question the Budget at a Committee meeting, that leader was told that "there are to be no questions;" where many have written me expressing the same thing: "I want to ask Manning or Silverman about this but I know that if I do my career path within JFNA will be terminated." L'etat c'est moi and fiduciary responsibility are mutually exclusive concepts.

JFNA leadership fails to comprehend, or comprehend but don't care, that they have created an environment within which corruption and self-dealing can breed. We who fail to question or are intimidated from doing so, provide the perfect Petri dish in which breach of fiduciary duty can breed. We look at Penn State and say to ourselves: "That couldn't happen here." And, I don't believe that that can happen "here." But, other things can...and as recent revelations evidence, they do.

But only because good men and women stay silent.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I heard that comment before when asking about the budget and it being merely a framework. I had never before heard of a budget that was so flexible in nature and what would I tell those who asked me what the cost of raising money was? Well its only a framework! I was mystified, still am. But luckily I don't send my money there anymore. I send it directly to JAFI or JDC and cut out the middleman. Of course I do leave some for the local Federation needs in our community. Works for me!