I want to say first that it is not a conflict of interest for a CIL staff member to serve in any office on the SILC, including as chair. The regulations only require that the chair be a voting member, which is the case for all CIL staff members. Not only is it NOT a conflict of interest, but the Rehabilitation Act requires a CIL representative for a reason, and that is to assure that the council is acting in a way that shows they understand Independent Living and the role of Centers. Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act requires, in Section 705(b)2(A) among its voting members, at least 1 director of a center for independent living chosen by the directors of centers for independent living and Section 705(b)2(B) “among its voting members, for a State in which 1 or more centers for independent living are run by, or in conjunction with, the governing bodies of American Indian tribes located on Federal or State reservations, at least 1 representative of the directors of such centers.” This is the first required member(s), I think at least in part because of the importance of a CIL voice on the SILC.
Section 705(b)4(A) requires that the Council “be composed of members — (i) who provide statewide representation; (ii) who represent a broad range of individuals with disabilities from diverse backgrounds; (iii) who are knowledgeable about centers for independent living and independent living services; and (iv) a majority of whom are persons who are— (I) individuals with disabilities described in section 7(20)(B); and (II) not employed by any State agency or center for independent living.”
Note two things in this section of the law. First, ALL members appointed are to be knowledgeable about CILs and the IL services from Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act. Second, while members who work for a CIL cannot be counted in calculating the majority, that membership is not limited in any other way.
Also note that a majority of CILs in the state must agree with the SPIL. Again, evidence of the strong role that CILs are expected to play in collaboration with the SILC.
I am not saying there could never be a conflict of interest. If a specific issue came up where one center was favored over another in some way, a CIL representative may need to express the possible conflict and abstain from discussion/voting. Interestingly enough, depending on the bylaws, the chair often does not typically get a vote except to break a tie, so a CIL executive director who serves as chair might actually have less influence rather than more. But unless one CIL has some advantage over all the others, there is not a conflict. The role of the CIL representative is to make sure the voice of the CILs is heard by the council.
Which brings us back around to the question – can a SILC decide to exclude CIL members from serving on the executive committee? I strongly urge against such a policy or such language in your bylaws. The council is a body that includes at least one CIL representative selected by the CILs, and then may have other members from CILs as well. The council is a key focus point for the discussion of independent living in your state, both in the development of the SPIL and in monitoring its implementation. The CILs are critical partners in that function.
That said, I regret to tell you that it is permissible for the SILC to adopt such a policy, but I strongly discourage it.