The New Wyoming State Board of Professional Engineers performs regulatory functions
(e.g., licensing of engineers) for the state. Members of the Board are appointed by the
state governor. Most of the Board members are also members of the New Wyoming Society of
Professional Engineers (NWSPE), a voluntary umbrella organization of professional
engineers in New Wyoming. Membership in NWSPE is controlled by its own board and is not
subject to approval by the State Board.
NWSPE holds annual meetings at pleasant resort area in New Wyoming. This year the NWSPE
meeting will begin the day after one of the State Board meetings. Since they share many
common concerns about the engineering profession, the Executive Committee of NWSPE has
recently expressed a strong interest in improving communication between NWSPE and the
State Board. Ordinarily the State Board meets in the State Capitol Building. Because the
NWSPE annual meeting and the State Board meeting will occur so close together--and most of
the Board members will be attending the NWSPE meeting anyway--the NWSPE Executive
Committee extends an invitation to the State Board to hold its meeting at the resort area.
The Board is invited to stay on for the NWSPE meeting, and an NWSPE session is planned for
the Board to conduct a roundtable discussion of State Board activities and concerns. NWSPE
offers to pay the travel and lodging expenses of State Board members.
Should the State Board accept the invitation?
Suppose the State Board accepts the invitation, agreeing that this would be a good
opportunity to improve communication with NWSPE. Several days later Brian Simpson begins
to have second thoughts. A new appointee to the Board, and the only Board member who does
not belong to NWSPE, Brian wonders if the Board has set itself up for a conflict of
interest situation. Although he knows of no instances in which the Board has directly
ruled on any NWSPE activities, it occurs to him that NWSPE and its members come within the
purview of the Board's regulatory functions. Finally, Brian writes to Harold Brock, Chair
of the State Board:
Dear Mr. Brock:
I have some serious reservations regarding our acceptance of the hospitality
offered by NWSPE to hold our August meeting at the Lakeshore Resort. While I agree about
the desirability for communication between the Board and NWSPE, it is inappropriate for us
as a regulatory body to accept anything of substantial value from the organization
representing those whose profession we regulate. Acceptance of hospitality in the form of
lodging and meals creates the appearance of a conflict of interest. Therefore, it is my
intention to pay any expenses not otherwise covered by the State of New Wyoming.
Brian Simpson, P.E.
Before sending the letter, Brian shows it to you. He discusses his concerns with you
and asks your advice about the letter. What is your advice to Brian?
Suppose Brian sends the letter as is. When Harold Brock receives the letter, he must
decide what to do next. Should Harold:
1) Share the letter with other Board members, inviting each to decide for himself or
herself whether to follow Brian's example.
2) Call a special Board meeting to discuss the matter.
3) Decide, on behalf of the Board, to withdraw acceptance of the hospitality.
Discuss your choice.
Suppose Harold sends the letter to the other Board members, inviting them to decide for
themselves whether to follow Brian's example. One other member, Ellen Price, agrees with
Brian and indicates that she, too, will pay her own expenses. None of the others,
including Harold Brock, think the issue raised by Brian warrants refusal of the
hospitality. Should Brian and Ellen do anything further, or should they simply quietly
continue their rejection of the offer of hospitality?
Suppose Brian and Ellen do not press the issue further but continue to insist that they
will pay their own expenses. While the annual NWSPE meeting is taking place, a resort area
reporter learns (not through Brian or Ellen) that NWSPE is hosting the state board. Like
Brian and Ellen, the reporter thinks this might create a conflict of interest. She
attempts to interview members of the board about how they see the situation. She
approaches Brian and Ellen. What should they say?