Should husband and wife serve together on the same board or committee

This is a question that has been asked by a client. The situation is that a vacancy ocurred on a board and a man said his wife would be happy to fill the vacancy.

The issue seems clear cut – we accept her and thank her for stepping up to the plate. But is this actually the best thing for the organisation? It is very common for committees of small sports clubs or interest groups to have the husband as the president and the wife as secretary or treasurer. 

Several problems occur. Because the two live in the same house, it is highly likely that isues will be discussed and action taken for expediency without reference to the rest of the committee. That seems fine until they cross the line with the natirs of decisions they make – usually innocently.

Also, the rest of the members of ten just “let them get on wih it” and do’t take adequate care and dilidgence about the running of the organisation.

For the people themselves, they often allow the club to become their life and when it does move to other people, (sadly usually against their will), then they have a huge gap in their lives that many have difficulty filling.

Finally, it can be argued that a husband and wife will usually have the same view on most issues and so vote the same way. This is not good for the organisation as you need a varied range of views to canvass options and opinion.

Conclusion

So from a governance perspective, there is nothing technically which disallows a husband and wife serving on the same board or committee, but the organisation is better to allow this only as a last resort and only as a temporary measure.

There appears to be only one place in the world that actually disallows this by statute and that is the state of New Hampshire in the USA.

The real problem is perception of inappropriate decision making or collusion. So when a tricky issue arises, if people even think there is collusion between the husband and wife, then you have conflict you don’t need.

Best advice – avoid it is at all possible. (Same goes by the way for any people who are closely related such as brothers, or brothers and sisters)

Interesting historical case

Many years ago a community support group was formed by a family who had suffered a particular circumstance. They provided support and counselling for families who had suffered similarly. The family had a limited education. Their intent was entirely noble but they lacked the understanding of the intricacies of running an organisation. They attracted government money because the need for their group was high and not provided by any government service. 

The committee consisted of the husband, wife, and three adult children. They “allowed” others in from time to time but these people did not stay as they could not work with the family members, who of course always supported each others views and opinions about the running of the group. Eventually another person came onto the committee who also needed the support provided by the group, but unfortunately the circumstance in her life was recent and so her work with the group became therapy for her – although she of course did not see it that way.

Eventually, the newcomer, who was educated, took over the group from the family even though they still held committee positions.

After a relatively short time, the government funding ceased as other groups formed which provided the same type of service, but operated much more effectively. The original group still runs, with no outside funding, but attracts great criticism from the professionals and other groups because they run so poorly and do not actually provide a good service any more. They are still fighting for funding 25 years – yes 25 years after their funding was terminated! The same people are still on the committee.

17 Comments »

  1. avatar Eddie Teh Says:

    We have a committee of six at the moment; husband and wife would make up a third of any vote. They even feel they have the “power” to get most things through, especially in intimi-dating other members. Husband and wife should not be allowed to serve in the same committee!

  2. avatar Chris Mollon Says:

    Thank you very Good advice And informative Most helpful

  3. avatar Victoria Says:

    Heya i’m for the primary time here. I found this board and I find It really helpful
    & it helped me out much. I hope to offer something back and aid others like you aided
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  4. avatar Kathie Gaudes Says:

    What is the wording used to include in by-laws that we do not want a husband and wife on the same executive?

  5. avatar AnarchyFighter Says:

    I’m on the Board of Directors for a non-profit. Some of our board members are husband/wife that share one vote. Currently, A husband serves as President. A point of order was brought up during a tie vote. That point of order was that the chair may not vote unless there is a tie.[His wife voted] (On paper we use Robert’s Rules, but its a mess sometimes) The wife insisted she get to vote and we take a 2nd vote, where her husband/President cast the tiebreaker. A MOTION WAS MADE and seconded to allow the wife to vote on the matter by ballot and the husband to break a tie should a tie occur this go round. I objected and said we can’t motion, take and record an illegal vote. (obviously many places like the bylaws and RR and state law and common sense say a chair’s vote cannot be cast in the vote, then cast a second vote to break a tie). My objection was railroaded and the board took a vote to allow the wife to vote and then allow the husband/President to break the tie; thus giving them two votes which is prohibited by our bylaws. I don’t know what I can possibly do at this point that doesn’t involve courts (which I won’t go that far). Any advice?

  6. avatar walktall Says:

    What country are you in? USA or Australia.
    If you are in Australia, then Robert’s Rules really are not appropriate – they are for the USA meeting scene – very different from Australia.

  7. avatar walktall Says:

    Members of the same family who are married or in a de facto relationship shall not be permitted to serve on the executive at the same time.
    or
    Members of the same family shall not be permitted to serve on the executive at the same time.

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  9. avatar Buzzy Says:

    There should be no problem with both husband and wife serving on the same executive board. They both have their own opinion. This not serving only applies to weak individuals who has no mind of their own. Independent intelligent husband and wife should have no problem serving on the same executive board

  10. avatar Marinete bowen Says:

    Our board has a owner and the same unit officer on the same board .
    They have the same vote interest.
    Is it the same situation as husband and wife? Is this allowed to happen?
    Thanks.
    Marinete

  11. avatar John Powell Says:

    Members of the same family who are married or in a de facto relationship shall not be permitted to serve on the executive at the same time.
    or
    Members of the same family shall not be permitted to serve on the executive at the same time.
    If any of the above statements are put forward as a motion, at an AGM, can the motion be rejected on the grounds of discrimination.

  12. avatar Liz Muller Says:

    We have a gay couple (not married) on our executive committee, plus a married heterosexual couple. How do we word this? They are not of the same family. They do live in a defacto relationship.

  13. avatar COUNCILMAN Says:

    Under the circumstances that I read this should apply in any ELECTORAL BOARD We are currently staffed with 2 Alderman and both of there wife’s one being City Clerk and the other one City Treasure also very GOOD FRIENDS SMALL TOWN this leads me to believe there is some Finance INFO being leaked I am waiting on some Legit Info to come to me .

  14. avatar William Says:

    Do you know the statute in NH that disallows this? Can’t seem to locate it.

  15. avatar David Price Says:

    I am sorry. I am in Australia so I do not have any knowledge of NH statutes.

  16. avatar David Price Says:

    You have an interesting situation!!!

  17. avatar David Price Says:

    Why not just refer to them by their first names and not mention the relationship at all.
    Does the relationship matter for the type of group you are?

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