Ethical dilemma: what would you do?

After moving to a new town, you join a newly formed Rotary club as one of its charter members. During the club’s second year, the president-elect brings her partner as a guest to many of the meetings. The president-elect, displeased with the club’s web and digital media coordinator, confers with the club’s board to make her partner an honorary member so he can oversee the club’s digital content without becoming an official member.

Since the incoming club president’s partner has openly expressed his lack of interest in joining Rotary, you speak with a member of the board, saying that the naming of honorary members should not be used in this way. The board member explains that in this case the granting of the honorary membership was a strategic decision, made with the expectation that the current web and digital media coordinator would resign from the club. You are shocked to learn of the club’s interest in removing a member in good standing and contact your district governor to express your concerns. The governor isn’t shocked by the action and confirms that the club has the authority to make this decision.

What would you do?

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Author: rotaryservice

The Rotary Service Connections blog helps Rotarians plan effective and inspired service projects. If you have questions, comments, or story recommendations, contact us at rotary.service@rotary.org

13 thoughts on “Ethical dilemma: what would you do?”

  1. Even though they have been counciled by a Governor that the club has the authority to basically dishonor the position of honorary Rotarian it does not make it right – examine the four way test – Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? I think not – this Governor has not shown good leadership.
    Perhaps mentoring by the Pe’s partner
    Would be a solution?
    Perhaps a good solution would have the PE’spartner offer some helpful mentoring ?

    1. Yes. Mentoring could have been more benign than rash decision or veto power from above

  2. I would like to think that the Honarary member would become co-media coordinator, and show compassion while mentoring the current members media skill. It does seem that some folks how ever well meaning would want to stay as media person if a professional offered their services for free. This may ne just enough to help the uninterested partner to gain buy in to the club.

  3. An interesting scenario, however, there are many holes in it. First there is no need for a non-Rotarian to be made honorary in order to take over a club’s website. The honorary designation appears designed to cause the current web-editor to resign as a result of an insult. The District Governor is correct to say that it is within the authority of the Club to make the Honorary designation, but that does not mean however, that the DG agrees with the decision.

    Since I am not a member of the board and they have already made the decision to make the President-elect’s partner an honorary member, I would want to do a more indepth investigation. I would suspect that the website and media coordinator has done something which has caused the majority of the board to support the motion to support the awarding of the honorary designation.

    While I was speaking with the DG I would begin by asking her if she is aware of why the board felt this was a necessary step to take and if in her opinion it was an ethical way to handle it. If she agreed that it was and that she supported the decision, I would or could leave it at that.

    Assuming, I still am not satisfied with the situation, since in my opinion it was an unethical way to resolve a website and social media corordinator position, I would attempt to make arrangements to meet with the Club president. Assuming I received a meeting and was still not satisfied with the rationale for the decision or the method by which it was done then I would have no recourse but to resign in protest.

    One thing I would want to learn is the role the President-elect played in the decision and if the partner was to receive an honorarium for his advise/ work. If there was and the PE voted then there would have been a conflict-of-interest and the vote would be invalidated.

    Ultimtely, before I resigned, I could take the issue to the full club, especially if I had a fellow member to bring forth a motion to overturn the decision of the board. This would be radical but given the inappropriateness of the decision it may be necessary.

    Mentoring isn’t a viable solution given that the decision has been made. There is also no evidence to suggest that the PE’s partner is an expert in websites or social media.

  4. The official Rotary definition of Honorary Member:

    ROTARY HONORARY MEMBERSHIP

    Honorary membership is given by election of a Rotary Club to people who have distinguished themselves by meritorious service in the furtherance of Rotary ideals. Honorary membership is conferred only in exceptional cases. Honorary members are exempt from the payment of admission fees and dues. They have no voting privileges and are not eligible to hold any office in their club. Honorary membership is time limited and terminates automatically at the end of the term, usually one year. It may be extended for an additional period or may also be revoked at any time. Examples of honorary members are heads of state or former heads of state, scientists, members of the military, and other famous figures.[citation needed]

    If the designation was made in hopes another member would resign it was not bestowed in the true spirit of Rotary.

  5. This is a matter for the Club Council as it results from their decision. Club Council is responsible for agreeing membershipi after ensuring the process has been correctly carried out It is not stated if the Honorary Member went though the seven day letter proceedures and if he attended an information meeting. I would the person either joins the club and ther Honorary membership removed

  6. Having been in Rotary in 3 states over almost 30 years, this is unfortunately far from the first time I’ve run across club members – one can hardly really call them Rotarians, can one? – acting out petty vendettas and/or going on personal power trips.
    What I find most disturbing is the lack of recourse any member has when they find this kind of nonsense going on in their club, meaning specifically a member being treated grossly unfairly because a club officer has a personal agenda, or Rotary’s basic tenets being cavalierly ignored. Inevitably, they first try to address it within the club. Again, sadly inevitably, other club officers tend either to be complicit or to prefer a “go along to get along” position. Often the offending board member is a bully and has built a cadre of sycophants, afraid to speak up for fear the bully will turn on them next.
    Next step, the district level. A member goes to the DG with their complaint of unfair behavior. Perhaps the wronged individual or, as here, another concerned Rotarian. And here’s where things really get disappointing. The DG refuses to get involved, either directly or through his/her AG or ExecAG. Why? Often because the offending club board member(s) are ex-district officers or up and coming district officers, so … more valuable to the DG than the poor wronged member. How’s that for failing the 4 Way Test?
    Districts need to set up a mechanism to deal with issues such as the one brought before this group, where the 4 Way Test is being violated and good Rotarians disrespected. Rotary needs to value and hold on to its good members. To allow toxic club behavior to slide gives the green light to continuing the toxic behavior.

    1. Frankly dispassionately well observed and solutions to avoid endemic toxicity in club affairs preferred This is a matured submission and this report ought OT be given whatsapp publicity

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