This is an excerpt of Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc’s “Governance for Regulators” handbook. To view additional sections of the handbook, click here.
f. Committee Chair Role
The role of the chair of a committee is analogous to the role of the President to the Board. The chair leads by example, supports committee members, facilitates the activities of the committee and provides a link between the committee members and the staff supporting the committee. The chair is also the spokesperson for the committee, for example, when it reports to the Board.
Where the committee sits in panels, the chair often assigns the panels. This could be done annually or for each individual case. In assigning panels the chair looks to ensure that each panel has an appropriate mix of skills, experience and perspective to make sound decisions. Where a committee acts through panels, the chair has a role to promote consistency in decision-making. While this might not involve participating in individual decisions, particularly for adjudicative-type decisions (e.g., discipline), measures can still be taken. Measures to promote consistency include a strong orientation process, having policies and decision-trees for panels to use and perhaps even post-decision discussions involving the entire committee.
Where a committee is acting through a panel, the chair of the panel performs a similar function in respect of panel business as the chair of the committee performs for committee business.
When facilitating a meeting, the chair should encourage participation by all committee members, keep the discussion on topic and focussed on the public interest, ensure that the tone and manner of discussion is constructive, and prevent any one committee member from dominating the discussion. The chair needs to ensure that the issues under discussion are clearly identified, that the relevant considerations are covered in the discussion, that the decision is unambiguous, and that the responsibility for implementing the decision is clearly assigned.
Role of Committee Chair Scenario
Ernie Eager has been appointed to chair the registration committee. Ernie is concerned that the three panels of the committee may not be taking consistent approaches to when applicants with a criminal record should be permitted to register. What are Ernie’s options?
This scenario requires Ernie to balance appropriate measures to promote consistency against interfering in individual decisions. For example, it would likely not be appropriate for Ernie to review draft decisions for each of the panels and intervene in the ones in which he does not agree. However, Ernie could have the entire committee, with staff assistance, develop a policy articulating the principles the panels should follow when considering such cases. Ernie could schedule a workshop on the topic where all registration committee members could discuss the concepts and work through some scenarios together. In addition, Ernie could even have different panels consider actual decisions that had already been finalized to determine if different panels would have reached a similar result. If panels would have reached a different result, the panels could meet to discuss why.