Ethical dilemma: what would you do?

Your club decides to send four members to a conference on fundraising techniques for humanitarian projects being held in New York City. All the members pool their resources to cover the expenses for the four during their three days at the conference. As the club treasurer, you review the members’ receipts after they return in order to reimburse them for airfare, lodging, registration fees, and meals. You notice that two of the four were careless with their purchases, using taxis instead of public transportation, dining at expensive restaurants, and adding unnecessary room charges to their hotel bill.

What do you do?

15 thoughts on “Ethical dilemma: what would you do?

  1. Talk to the two members about these charges, and one possible outcome, depending on their responses would be this: Pay the cab charges, refund only a payment for meals equivalent to the other two more modest charges, and refuse reimbursement on the Unnecessary” – perhaps personal? – room charges. If they’re otherwise good ambassadors for your club, they’ll certainly be more circumspect next time.

  2. What instructions were the group given regarding expenses? Was there a budget? Maybe the two were simply behaving as they would on their own business trips. I would have the board address the issue of how trip expenses are handled, and have an actual policy. Afterwards, if expenses are outside that policy, they are simply not reimbursed.

  3. Not to send any and use webinar instead and donate the money to something worthwhile, not a “Jolly”

  4. For the future, i would create a Board/Club policy that listed standards for reimbursement; receipts, limits on reimbursements to the cost of Public transport, a cap on meals and lodgings expenses – that may have to flex: NYC is more expensive than Detroit, Michigan. Any difference between frugal/prudent travel expenses should be on the Rotarian who opts for deluxe over standard; First class over coach. If it could be done diplomatically, with Board Approval, one could consider applying the policy retroactively, although it might be cleaner to just do it prospectively.

  5. Members need to know in advance what expenses will be reimbursed and/or be given a budget. Club should develop a policy for the future. In this case a private discussion to reach agreement with the members concerned would be the diplomatic approach.

    1. Heather, I agree with your reply. Well thought-out! During the private discussion, after the airfare, lodging and registration fees are paid, the remaining funds the membership pooled must be distributed equally among the four to cover their daily expenses.

  6. As we are all expected to have high ethical standards as Rotarians I would hope the issue would never arise, especially when all club members had contributed.
    Given that the scenario occurred I would establish that the two concerned did not have special requirements or disabilities with regard to transport and diet before making a decision. In the event of no extenuating circumstances I would simply reimburse to level of the lower claims and point out that unnecessary room charges are not the clubs responsibility. Should the members protest then I would not wish them to be representatives of the club in the future.

  7. I am travelling to our 1010 Distridt conference later this month and the only thing I expect my club to pay is the registration fee.

  8. Interesting and well considered comments but Rich said it first: the Board policy must be in place. The first place I would look as Treasurer is google. Try “Rotary International Board Travel Policy” and see the number of hits. Of particular interest is this 2013 guide:

    Just a final comment: Who at RI handles hotel reservation negotiations? In Sydney, the IBIS BUDGET cost my club more than twice its published online rate. (Literally: $65 is published and we paid over $150). Is it ethical to give a “special Rotary rate” like this to members? I’ve learned the hard way to go online myself…I am attending a neighboring District’s convention and am saving $40 a night at the Palm Springs hotel hosting the convention just by going online and booking independently.

    1. Susan, thanks for your feedback. One of Rotary’s Meetings & Events staff will follow up with you directly for more information about your experience in Sydney and to help avoid similar issues in the future.

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