Trustee report examines conflict of interest, state relationships

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--A 19-page report by a task force of North American Mission Board trustees, while addressing allegations raised in an article by the Georgia Baptist state paper, notes:

"After a great deal of conversation, the Trustees who participated in this process reached some consensus that the primary issues raised in the story revolve around Dr. Reccord," the Southern Baptist entity's president, Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, since its founding in 1997.

Among the concerns of the trustees:

-- that the mission board could be accused of a conflict of interest involving Reccord and a firm to which NAMB has outsourced media work.

-- that Reccord has "underdeveloped his relationships" with state Baptist conventions and their executive leadership.

The concern over perceptions of a conflict of interest, cited both in the trustee task force report and in a Feb. 16 article by Georgia Baptists' newsjournal, The Christian Index, involves the use of a firm owned by Steve Sanford, a member of Reccord's former church in Norfolk, Va., to do an audit of NAMB's media strategies, followed by the outsourcing of various NAMB media initiatives to the same firm, named InovaOne.

"While the Trustees discovered no intentional attempt by Dr. Reccord to show favoritism to a 'friend' by retaining and using Steve Sanford and InovaOne for NAMB's media strategies, they do believe that this decision left both he and the Board open to the charge of a conflict of interest," the nine-member trustee task force stated.

The report stated that trustees became aware of InovaOne when Reccord noted the company's involvement in the development of NAMB's new "316 Network," a service to help churches gain access to web-casting technology.

"... Dr. Reccord did not disclose that there had been any prior relationship between Steve Sanford and himself," the report stated. "Again, one cannot infer anything unethical from this, but the disclosure of this data to the Board early in the process may have eliminated some of the

problems the Agency is currently experiencing."

Concerning Reccord's relationships with state Baptist conventions, the trustee report listed several "perceptions [that] exist in the state

conventions" and noted:

"Because perception is reality for many people, the Trustees feel that it is necessary, at the very least, to ask the question as to why these perceptions exist, and to consider what might be done to assist Dr. Reccord in repairing these relationships and changing the image he may be projecting. After all, the success of the Agency in many ways is related directly to the success its President has in relating to the state conventions.

The perceptions listed by the trustees are:

"The President has underdeveloped his relationships with state executives and conventions, and as a result, has given the appearance of a 'top down' leadership style that has hindered some relationships and some strategies

like 'What Now?'" a NAMB evangelistic emphasis launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"The President has chosen at times to emphasize events and venues that are on the periphery of NAMB's true mission: evangelism and church planting.

"The President has not been providing the kind of consistent oversight that is necessary on a day-to-day basis to properly manage the Agency.

"Consequently, the President has participated in, or presided over, some poor management decisions on a number of levels, including Elevate [conferences for twenty-somethings] and InovaOne, which has cost NAMB

financially and hindered the confidence that the SBC has in the Agency."

The 58-member trustee board reviewed the task force report during a special meeting March 23 at NAMB's Atlanta-area headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga.

They unanimously adopted an accountability plan for Reccord involving a trustee subcommittee that will "develop a set of Executive Level controls to

be used as a guide" related to various issues raised in the task force report and the Christian Index article.

The subcommittee, which board chairman Barry Holcomb said he hopes to name during the coming month, will propose controls for:

1) "directing the travel, speaking, and on-campus office time required for the President...."

2) "the use of RFP's" (Request For Proposals), akin to bidding to compete for work being outsourced by NAMB.

3) "when the President ... wants to develop new initiatives, including the appropriate oversight and approval by the Board."

4) "clarifying what constitutes poor management by an executive officer and how it should be handled."

5) providing Reccord and NAMB "with greater levels of accountability to the Board and the Southern Baptist Convention."

Under the sixth part of the plan, the board assigned "its duly elected officers, in perpetuity, with the role of monitoring these controls, utilizing them as part of the President's annual review, and reporting the status of these controls annually at an assigned full Board meeting."

"His job is not in jeopardy," board chairman Holcomb, the task force's leader, said in a news conference after the trustee meeting, which lasted seven and a half hours. No disciplinary measures were taken by the board,

Holcomb said. "We found nothing to sustain any kind of thought of wrongdoing, anything unethical, anything immoral ... ."

While acknowledging various shortcomings of both Reccord and the trustee board, Holcomb said the trustees "overwhelmingly today said, 'Dr. Reccord,

you are the visionary leader that God has given us.'"

Reccord has been NAMB's president since its founding in 1997 as part of the Southern Baptist Convention's restructuring, called "Covenant for a New

Century." NAMB primarily was formed in a merger of the SBC's former Home Mission Board, Radio and Television Commission and Brotherhood Commission. Reccord at the time was pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va.

In addition to Holcomb, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Andalusia, Ala., the task force included William J. (Bill) Curtis, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, S.C.; Larry Thomas, director of missions for the Red River Baptist Association in Heber Springs, Ark.; Terry Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan.; David Crump, pastor of Aspen Park Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.; Timothy (Tim) P. Dowdy, pastor of Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga.; Tim Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; Albert (Al) Y. Kawamoto, a member of Arlington Park Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas; and Ellie Wade Ficken, a member of Vaughn Forest Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.


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