EDIT: Giving credit where credit is due, first ran across this issue in a post here on the Montclair Patch, which spells it out with more detail.
Right from the start most people learn to recognize conflicts of interest and how to avoid and prevent them. It’s why we draw straws for unpleasant tasks, call mediators to resolve disputes, and in one of the oldest clearest example, don’t let the fox guard the hen house.
In our own community from time to time we have to recognize and address conflicts of interest. It may not be the most pleasant task but it’s necessary to keep us functioning smoothly and honestly.
For instance, our third ward councilor Sean Spiller has found himself at the intersection of working for Montclair Board of Estimate and his obligation, as an officer of the New Jersey Educational Association to push for policies that favor the NJEA. In either role alone there wouldn’t be a problem, but with a foot in both camps there is simply no way to avoid those conflicts of interest.
The ethical action Spiller should take to defuse the situation is stepping down from the Board of Estimate. Trying to enact policy as a disinterested third party while also working for an organization trying to influence those policies simply isn’t sustainable or practical. By leaving his post at the Board of Estimate Spiller can put to rest concerns over his ability to act as an advocate for the NJEA and his fiduciary and moral obligations to the city.