Radford May Not Be Alone

In the course of my investigation into the irony of swimming in the Bay of Plenty I was interested in finding academic papers written on the subject of corporate responsibility. I was particularly looking for studies that discussed the problems associated with corporations that comply with the law but act irresponsibly; organizations whose behaviour was legal but anti-social. My intention was to find academic support for the opinion that Bronwen Radford’s dual role of Chair of Swimming BOP and working for Swim Rotorua was legal but was not morally or socially responsible.

It turns out that quite a lot has been written on the subject. And one of the leading authors is a Massey University lecturer called Lin Tozer. A report, Tozer co-authored, was especially interested in this subject. The report was titled, “Aethical corporations: Is there a case to answer under a “Social Contract”? The report discussed the actions of James Hardie Industries in dealing with several corporate problems.

There is far too much information in the Tozer paper to cover in one Swimwatch post. However the extract quoted below gives some idea of the author’s view that there is much more to corporate responsibility than the clauses in a constitution or sections of the law. Corporate ethical responsibility is bigger than the law.

Corporate behavior has frequently ignored the moral or ethical obligations. This behaviour supports the contention that corporations are inherently aethical and that, therefore, their behaviour depends entirely on the ethical values espoused by directors, senior executives and shareholders. It is weaknesses such as this that may help to explain apparently unethical/immoral behaviour on behalf of corporations. Having heard all the evidence in the HIH Inquiry, Justice Owen stated “from time to time as I listened to the evidence about specific transactions or decisions, I found myself asking rhetorically: did anyone stand back and ask themselves the simple question, – is this right?” Corporate governance now entails a responsibility to ensure that the social contract is observed, or boards should be prepared to defend their non­compliance.

All that seems pretty straight forward; corporations have a moral duty to behave responsibly; to consider the intention of the law as well as the word of the law. Or as Justice Owen said, “I found myself asking rhetorically: did anyone stand back and ask themselves the simple question, – is this right?” That is a question, I believe, Bronwen Radford and the Board of Swimming BOP should be asking. Is the presence of a club senior coach on the Board of Swimming BOP compatible with the intention of the constitution? Is it right?

But it appears Bronwen Radford might not be alone in having to look closely at her position. Because, you see, the author of the paper on corporate ethics, Lin Tozer, appears to have a similar problem. Tozer’s home region is Manawatu. Their constitution says:

The Board comprises six persons, who are not required to be members of a Member Club. At least two of whom must have previous governance experience and at least two of whom must not have a contemporaneous Governance Role in a Member Club.

The following persons are not eligible to be a Board member: an employee of a Member Club,

That seems clear – being on the Board of the Manawatu Region and employed by a club is not allowed. Lin Tozer is most certainly on the Manawatu Regional Board. Their website lists her as a member of the Board, as a Race Secretary and as the Selector. You’d find it hard to be more “on-a-Board” than that.

Then I go to Tozer’s LinkedIn page and I discover that Tozer is also President of the Dannevirke Swimming Club and its Head Coach. The Head Coach position includes a note that it is a volunteer role. Clearly, like Bronwen Radford in Bay of Plenty, Tozer is relying on the employee/volunteer distinction to get around her multitude of conflicting roles.

Certainly Tozer knows the rules. She writes swimming news for a couple of local papers. In 2015, when the new Manawatu Constitution was passed, this is what she wrote in the Manawatu Standard.

This year’s Swimming Manawatu annual meeting has brought about a changing of the guard and a whole new way of governing the sport of swimming in this region. A governance board has taken the place of the management committee that has administered the affairs of the region for many decades. It is anticipated that under this new structure, which is fashioned on the Swimming New Zealand model, the sport will continue to grow throughout the region and the country in a coordinated way.

It seems to me that the time is due for Lin Tozer to put herself in the position of Justice Owen; to stand back and say, is being a member of the Manawatu Board, a Selector and a Race Secretary and at the same time a Club President and Head Coach compatible with the intent of the rules? Is it good for swimming? Is it right?

It will come as no surprise to hear that I think both Radford and Tozer are impossibly conflicted. It’s not in the same league as the President of China, Xi Jinping, ruling for life, but in my opinion, Bay of Plenty and Manawatu have allowed the rules to be blurred in ways that are not good for swimming in their regions.

On the subject of blurred lines can Manawatu explain why their Constitution says, “The Board comprises six persons” and yet seven names are listed on the website as Board members?

Swimming New Zealand has a responsibility here. It is their duty to police and expect good behaviour. I’m surprised Swimming New Zealand does not feel that the conflicts of interest in Rotorua and Palmerston North are of concern. Because evidently these matters are not only of no concern, they represent behaviour that should be rewarded. This is what the Swimming New Zealand website says.

Lin Tozer from the Ice Breaker Aquatics club in Palmerston North has won the inaugural Sport Maker award at the Sport New Zealand awards last night. This award is to recognise the huge contribution that volunteers make to sport in New Zealand.

So there you have it. The intent of Swimming New Zealand’s rules is one thing and the organisation rewards the opposite. No wonder we are in such a bloody mess.

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