Conflict of Interest

The ARRL Ethics and Elections Committee has recused a director for publishing a book that competes with ARRL publications, creating a conflict of interest. I find this strange as ARRL is a non-profit amateur radio advocacy organization, not a for-profit company driven by shareholders’ financial interests. I thought, perhaps naively, the goals of ARRL publications were to promote and enable the hobby, and not primarily be a line of business or product offering that competes in the marketplace.

I find the framing of this really troubling, with the “ongoing conflict of interest” being caused “through the creation and publication of a book which competes with one or more ARRL publications”. If the book was published in the public domain and available for free, it still would compete with ARRL publications, and arguably would still be considered an ethics violation, despite such publication being totally altruistic and compatible with ARRL’s mission of amateur radio advancement. Such competition could perhaps also be claimed for publishing a website of antenna designs, or volunteering for a non-ARRL VE organization.

There is a conflict of interest here, however it’s ARRL’s interest in publication offerings that is in conflict with its primary mission of advancing amateur radio.

This article was originally published on Radio Artisan.

Anthony, K3NG, is a regular contributor to

11 Responses to “Conflict of Interest”

  • John Sakowich W4FBL:

    I think you were right.
    If the book is about ham radio then working there or not, there should be on issue.
    This is why I don’t belong to ARRl. They are much to powerful for their own good in my book.
    They have good books and should not dictate to people who can have a book or not. NOT THEIR CALL

  • Bill ki7hyi:

    Conflict of interest has no economic component.

  • Chris Hart, CT7AMT:

    I agree with Bill, it is not necessarily financial. But that then begs the question, which interest has been conflicted? Obviously if plagiarism has taken place then that could possibly warrant court action, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. So what’s your problem, ARRL?
    I have several ARRL publications (I am not a member) and they are all good. I consider their publications to be educational, but do they have a monopoly on education?
    Without further information this looks like the director in question is being screwed by jealousy. Maybe he wasn’t well liked anyway.
    Perhaps the author, in his biog’ states that he is a director of ARRL and the ARRL think he is claiming undue authority or endorsement thereby? More information needed. (for ‘him’ read ‘her’ if necessary).

  • Arne K5ARN:

    It is female director, old ham boys struck down on her. Not renewing membership!

  • Goody K3NG:

    I was a staunch supporter of ARRL in the early 2000s and I have a life membership. Over the years they keep doing things that make me face-palm myself. Their publications are quite good. This conflict of interest situation says something about the organization. It tells me the publications portion of the organization should be spun off into a for-profit company. The elected hierarchy should be responsible for amateur radio advocacy, not product line management. If I was a volunteer or elected official at ARRL, I’d be reconsidering giving my time.

  • Larry Wheeler W9QR:

    I agree with the action taken by the Directors. Amateurs who are involved in the sale of radio equipment or supplies are not eligible to hold a directors position. The appearance of impropriety naturally attaches when a Director has some financial stake in a product that may be tested or reviewed by the League. That was League policy when I joined in 1958 and it was the League’s policy when my mentor was hired by H.P. Maxim to be the chief operator of the League’s station, 1MK in 1927.

  • Goody K3NG:

    Larry, ARRL is not obligated to test or review the director’s product or any product, so any perceived impropriety would be the result of a voluntary action of ARRL, not the director, unless the director involved lobbied for ARRL to review their product. The issue ARRL cited in the recusal is that the director’s work competes with an ARRL product. The word “compete” was specifically used. That word is quite important. If a director can’t engage in the sale of supplies, but ARRL can, and directors must support this and not “compete”, this supports the argument that ARRL is primarily a for-profit business and not an amateur radio advocacy organization. Framing this as an ethics issue is a subterfuge.

  • Larry Wheeler W9QR:

    Very good point Goody, the fact that the basis of the issue is about competition tells us that the Ethics Committee does not know their own rules. (Unless they have been changed recently) Some of the older Directors know that, but most are “Johnny Come Lately” who don’t seem to know a lot. As one Director told me, “It’s a messy issue.” It did not have to be that way. It seems like every few years the League shoots itself in the foot. That’s one of the reasons that I have not renewed my membership in many years.The membership numbers are at or near an all time low as a percentage of the total number eligible to belong. This does not help.

  • Goody K3NG:

    In the Ethics Committee’s defense, they may indeed be enforcing the rules as written. I’d argue if that is the case, the rules are wrong, and I’d also argue the Committee needs to look at the bigger picture, through the lens of amateur radio advancement rather than a business perspective. I’m probably beating a dead horse here. ARRL is gonna ARRL. It’s a done deal.

    Coincidentally I just received my 25 Year ARRL member pin in the mail. I can’t not renew as I’m a life member. (Sigh.) Outside of publications ARRL is losing relevancy in the hobby, in my opinion. The organization needs a reboot. That’s not going to happen.

  • Ria Jairam N2RJ:

    I was given clearance by the ARRL’s ethics and elections committee to publish the book. And despite the mental gymnastics that E&E will try to do to say that I didn’t properly disclose the book, the fact is that I have, **in writing** a finding from E&E that there is no conflict of interest, dated all the way back in June before the book even went to print (it hit store shelves in November). I asked them for what they needed in terms of disclosures, I gave them what they asked for and then came back saying it was OK.

    Later on they came back and rescinded that after the book was published and even made inaccurate statements saying I didn’t cooperate with them.

    But this isn’t even about a book. I’ve been chewed out for raising issues about diversity, calling out technology shortcomings (which were months later “found” and fixed by their new IT director) and even asked to take down a video from my YouTube channel where I interviewed a well known ARRL critic.

    So this isn’t really about a book. The book was a means to an end.

    I may end up leaving the ARRL anyway as they are too weighed down by politics and the very public infighting just never ends.

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