I live in an unincorporated village on the south shore of Nassau County and the elected Board of Education has this problem that doesn’t want to talk about and it’s called nepotism. Three out of the seven members have a child working for the district, all who got jobs while their parents were on the Board including one member where both sons just were hired for the district. They will say there is nothing wrong with nepotism. They’re right in the sense that it’s not illegal as long as the parent board member abstains, but it gives the impression that something underhanded is being done. Impressions matter because it leads to negative inferences and assumptions.
A few weeks back, a plan sponsor client asked me about a bundled third-party administrator. I thought hiring them would be a mistake, but the sponsor was still interested. I talked to the provider and they were trying to allay my fears before they did break the one cardinal rule: they offered me free tickets to a sporting event as their guest.
My wife will say I don’t charge enough for my service and she’s probably right. But one thing I can’t do is give anyone the impression that my opinions can be bought. While I have accepted sports tickets from providers where a client of mine wasn’t a client of theirs, I try to avoid situations that give the impression that I can be swayed by something that looks underhanded. While being schmoozed is a part of the business, it’s usual general schmooze that isn’t tied to a specific client of yours that might give the impression that you have a conflict of interest.