Saturday, December 01, 2007

The misuse of language, thought, and other public structures

Someone I know writes to invite me to join an organisation's Board of Governors.

I ask for details of the organisation. He is cagey about this, saying that there have been "a number of hostile attempts to take over the organization". So he and his colleagues have "had to take extreme measures and put together strict procedures and governance. The organization is now restructured. We have a new Ceo and President and a new capable board of directors. The entity 501 c6 is now legally protected by the board, legal team and founding team. Board of governors is honorary and advisory, and we are very careful in providing this information at this time to prospective active board of governors.All of the board of directors would be seeing constitution and by laws for the first time during the board of directors meeting in nyc under strict guidelines. Due to the current sitution and request from our CEO, we have to keep bylaws and constitution on very controlled and restrictive basis".

So here is an interesting situation:

1. You have to agree to be on the board of an organisation about which you know nothing before you are allowed to see the constitution of the organisation (!).

2. There is a Board of Directors that has executive or non-executive authority AS WELL AS a "Board of Governors" that is merely advisory. The right and transparent terminology for any advisory board is of course to call it either a "Board of Advisors" or a "Board of Patrons" (or, possibly, a "Board of Reference" - depending on how eminent the members are). A "board of governors" is usually the governing board of a public entity. The organisation in question is not a public entity and here is a "board of governors" that does NOT "govern"! Given the degeneration and public misuse of language that has been going on for some decades, I guess this kind of usage is not entirely surprising but it does not add to the credibility of the organisation.

3. I note that "The 501(c)(6) is specifically reserved to Chamber of Commerce organizations, economic development corporations, real estate boards, trade boards, professional football leagues (e.g., the NFL), and other types of business leagues. They are characterized by a common business interest, which the organization typically promotes. Organizations under this category are exempt from most federal income taxes. Donations to a 501(c)(6) are not tax deductible as charitable contributions, as is the case in the 501(c)(3) category. 501(c)(6) organizations may engage in limited political activities that inform, educate, and promote their given interest. They may not engage in direct expenditures advocating a vote for a political candidate or cause. Donations to 501(c)(6) organizations are not required to be disclosed" - that quote is from the Wikipedia - which is not entirely reliable but is usually good as a rough-and-ready guide and gives you enough to chew on and double-check with more reliable authorities if you really want to follow something through.

In any case, this makes the organisation whose "Board of Governors" I am invited to join even more curious as, typically, a 501(c)(6) organisation's membership would consist of other ORGANISATIONS and *not* individuals - with the Board of Directors and other such bodies consisting entirely of representatives duly nominated by member organisations. Again, this sort of thing does not add to credibility for the organisation inviting me to join its "Board of Governors".

So here is an interesting case of the connection of language misuse with unclear thought - or possibly deliberate obfuscation.

Does this sound like something put together by an American lawyer? It does sound like that but, actually, it isn't! It is put together by an "ordinary" (or I should say, extraordinary) techie and a group of otherwise highly-educated and highly-regarded individuals - who should certainly be able to think and to organise things individually (and undoubtedly collectively!) much more clearly and logically than me.

It is rather a pity that the organisation is not put together by an American lawyer. At least you would know what to blame. Sphere: Related Content

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