Here's a huge problem that Uncle Blabby didn't confront but one of our great national organizations is....right now. On March 22 The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers reported on the disbarment of one of the most prominent plaintiffs' lawyers (the "master of disaster") in this country. The disbarment arose out of the alleged misapplication of millions of dollars in settlement fees. The lawyer in question was a leader of the United Jewish Appeal and the JDC; he is now the National President of the Jewish National Fund.
This disbarment raises serious questions for all of our organizations: what do you under circumstances like this one? What is a Board's responsibility? Your organization has a wonderful philanthropist as its President or Chair and you find out he has been disbarred...or that you are about to elect as your Chair someone about to be exposed as an alleged slumlord or some other negative activity. What do you do? What are your fiduciary responsibilities as a Board Member under these circumstances?
Well, let's start with the basic tenet of all philanthropic organizations: we operate on the basis of trust. The donors must trust the organizations with the donors' funds. Can you continue to trust an organization the lay chair of which has been accused/alleged/proved to have misused "client funds?" Or similar? Clearly, this is a risk that no organization can take...not for a moment. You wouldn't elect a known slumlord or one who has been disbarred for the misapplication of client funds to your organization's top volunteer position, would you? So how can you allow the same person to remain in that office? You can't. The leader in question, who clearly cares deeply about the organization, must demonstrate that caring by resigning...and he must be counselled into doing so by those closest to him in the organization. Failing that, By-Law provisions on Removal need to be invoked.
This is serious business.