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.

Is it a conflict for the CIL rep to chair the SILC?

7 thoughts on “Is it a conflict for the CIL rep to chair the SILC?

  • October 8, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    I thought the CIL director should not being the Chair from because it is a conflict when it comes down to money and funding going to their center. If they are a deciding vote, they will not be able to vote regarding the topic if its funding to their center correct?

    • October 9, 2020 at 9:26 am

      It is only a conflict of interest if the chair’s center is getting something that the others are not. If the issue before the council is equal for all centers, then the chair would not need to recuse themselves and could vote to break a tie. If the issue benefits only their center, the chair would recuse themselves, meaning they could not vote at all. If the vote is a tie, the motion would not pass.

  • October 11, 2020 at 11:37 am

    How is the required Section 705(b)4(A) “knowledge” assessed or measured or scored and what does the assessor know about IL? I’m concerned about ILRU’s IL knowledge.

    Abandoning the tenants of Independent Living leaves the movement without the required knowledge to create disability justice. Disability, Disability Community, Disability History and Culture and Disability Rights were concepts built within the IL service model. The IL model, constructed the Rehab Act, I.D.E.A., and the ADA as instruments to protect us from our historical abuse and neglect. The IL movement was driven by personal passion.
    The question is how did we get to a corporate model of CIL services?

    Paula’s statements might make sense if our CILs were run by consumers. The function of IL is to expand the voice of CONSUMERS into all walks of life. In 2020 there is an ever expanding practice of CILs run by professionals as a business. Corporations are inherently bodies of self-interest; the corporate entity’s needs take president over the needs of the people served. Is it possible to “vest authority in consumers” and submit to the corporate hierarchy of power? Are characteristics of business management in conflict with the purpose of consumer control, self-help and empowerment? There it is, the hard part; how to serve the disabled by sharing authority in administration of a Center or a SILC.

    Independent Living is a philosophy promoting the voice of individuals with significant disabilities and creating opportunities for the disabled to exercise authority over their own lives. Centers in the 60’s and 70’s were not funded with state or federal dollars. They were created by the disabled for the disabled. When the IL model of peer delivered services proved effective, advocates worked with legislators to formalize and fund CILs.
    There was a great deal of mentoring from consumer leaders to legal professionals and educators. Independence for the disabled was a revolutionary concept and Consumers had to demonstrate they have the capacity to be self-determined. The 1980s and 90’s were a period of learning about self-help and peer support as a means to change mainstream society. Independent Living was lead by the same people who experienced exclusion and felt offended by a bigoted, ableist society. Personal knowledge of the struggle is, I believe, the expertise required to be a representative on the SILC.

    • October 11, 2020 at 3:23 pm

      Darma, you raise a very important point. My suggestion will only work in a truly consumer-controlled environment. The CILs and the SILC must be consumer controlled. That is a given that, I understand, is not always lived out, and that we must continue to promote and defend. I agree that personal knowledge and experience with a disability is the expertise required in both CILs and SILCs, and both must have AT LEAST a majority of people with disabilities — in the case of CILs, more than 50% people with significant disabilities, and in the case of the SILC, more than 50% people with disabilities who do not work for either a CIL or the state.

  • October 14, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Would consumer control be maintained when the executive committee of a silc is comprised of 3 three Center directors and a staff member and two consumers with disabilities? How would conflict of interst be monitored or address

    • October 14, 2020 at 11:18 am

      You make a good point. I would ask this question — are the consumers on the Council, those who don’t work for either a CIL or the state, truly empowered to control the work of the council? This kind of CIL-heavy executive committee would not be typical if the majority of people with disabilities are listened to and their control supported. I recommend against a flat policy saying that CIL staff cannot serve as officers, but how they serve and the balance of power need to be considered. Everyone should be focusing on how to assure that the control is with the consumers who don’t work for either the State or a center. If that is not the case, the SILC does need to decide on structure or policies that preserve this essential element of Independent Living.

      I want to repeat my feelings on conflict of interest, though. In my opinion it is not a conflict of interest for the CIL rep to express or vote on the things that impact all centers equally. The position is required so that CIL viewpoint is at the table. It is only a conflict of interest if the person voting gets something more or different than the other centers. But that is my opinion. The SILC is autonomous and develops its own policies and procedures for what works best for your network.

    • October 15, 2020 at 9:55 am

      I believe that composition with 4 CIL employees IS out of compliance. As Paula referenced, the Act sets limits on agency influence.
      The regs don’t provide practical measuring tools to implement the intention of the mandated composition. Some SILCs have a preponderance of professionals from providers associated with IL/VR funding. PWD are working professionals but I think the conflict is their consumer representation. It is a problem if the SILC doesn’t have the perspective of the most oppressed. (If the SILC /CIL had a majority of people who experience discrimination at the table, we would end subminimum wages, for example)
      Too often people on the SILC refuse to confront providers like Goodwill because the council or board members have more in common with providers than consumers.


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