AAPG Bylaws Fundamentals: What is the Ethics Committee For?

Upon acceptance into the membership of AAPG, all members are obliged to follow the AAPG Constitution and Bylaws in matters of Association business, professional conduct and personal decorum. Violations of tenets under Appendix A: Code of Ethics can subject any member to disciplinary procedures detailed under Appendix B: Disciplinary Code.

The AAPG Ethics Committee is a standing committee composed of five members (including a chair) appointed by the Executive Committee. The names of the committee members are a matter of public record. The committee is charged with evaluating and recommending improvements to matters of AAPG ethics and discipline (including proposing changes to relevant bylaws), providing general advice on professional behaviors and receiving and evaluating ethics complaints submitted by members. Any committee deliberations regarding ethics complaints are conducted in executive session.

Appendix B: Disciplinary Code very clearly lays out the process for receiving and evaluating ethics complaints. Note that the Ethics Committee’s initial evaluation of a complaint is just the first step in a potentially multistep process.

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Upon acceptance into the membership of AAPG, all members are obliged to follow the AAPG Constitution and Bylaws in matters of Association business, professional conduct and personal decorum. Violations of tenets under Appendix A: Code of Ethics can subject any member to disciplinary procedures detailed under Appendix B: Disciplinary Code.

The AAPG Ethics Committee is a standing committee composed of five members (including a chair) appointed by the Executive Committee. The names of the committee members are a matter of public record. The committee is charged with evaluating and recommending improvements to matters of AAPG ethics and discipline (including proposing changes to relevant bylaws), providing general advice on professional behaviors and receiving and evaluating ethics complaints submitted by members. Any committee deliberations regarding ethics complaints are conducted in executive session.

Appendix B: Disciplinary Code very clearly lays out the process for receiving and evaluating ethics complaints. Note that the Ethics Committee’s initial evaluation of a complaint is just the first step in a potentially multistep process.

The Role of the Ethics Committee

What the Committee does not do:

  • ✗ Receive or consider verbal complaints
  • ✗ Weigh in on disagreements outside of formal complaints
  • ✗ Provide arbitration within formal complaints
  • ✗ Develop legal opinions or set legal or statutory precedent
  • ✗ Provide monitoring of membership behaviors for preemptive action

What the Committee does do:

  • ✓ Evaluate each complaint on its own merits
  • ✓ Apply experiential, group wisdom in evaluating professionalism and ethics
  • ✓ Attempt to verify claims and evidence provided with the complaint
  • ✓ Assesses potential ethical violations including, but not limited to, defamation, breach of confidentiality, bullying, discrimination, lying and spreading misinformation (including deceit by omission)
  • ✓ Decides if behaviors fall under unprofessional, unethical and/or potentially illegal standards, which determines the course of a complaint

Once initial review of an ethics complaint under Section 3A of the Disciplinary Cole is completed by the committee, there is a “stop or proceed” decision by majority vote of the committee. “Stop” means that the committee does not recommend further action on the complaint. This could be because the issue at hand is not deemed to have crossed an ethical boundary (as opposed to unprofessional behavior), the evidence provided does not support the complaint, the complaint itself is not clear, and/or there are legal actions in play that preempt an Association disciplinary process. (Note: The Bylaws do address consequences that can arise from other violations, such as being convicted of a legal offense, admitting to violation of a statute or code, etc.; see Appendix B, Sections 4A and B.)

A “proceed” decision is triggered by the last part of Section 3A: “If in the judgment of the ethics committee and after consultation with AAPG legal counsel, the evidence supports further action by the Association, the committee shall prepare and file formal charges with the advisory council at Association headquarters.” This results in a full hearing and a selection of potential outcomes as detailed in Sections 3B through 5 of the Disciplinary Code.

Note that the expectation and spirit of this process is to maintain the confidentiality of the accuser and accused at all times. See Section 5B of the Disciplinary Code: “The existence of allegations against any member and their basis and content shall be confidential.”

Under current Bylaws, a judgement of violation(s) and penalty can only come after a full hearing. There is no option for the committee, in Section 3A, to administer a modest admonishment in lieu of proceeding to Section 3B.

It is vital for members to understand the bylaws and carefully evaluate a potential complaint. A complainant needs to ensure that their submission does not simply reflect an argument, personality skirmish, philosophical debate or other conflict that, no matter how unprofessional, does not rise to the bar of an ethics violation.

Please see related article in this issue discussing ethical versus unprofessional behavior by Dan Billman.

In the next issue, look for a follow-up article: “AAPG Bylaws Fundamentals II: Where does the Code of Conduct fit?”

Comments (1)

Please comment on the public accusations of unethical conduct by members
Mr. Houston: Is is ethical to make a public accusation of unethical conduct against another member? I have consulted a past DPA and AAPG President for whom "professionalism" and "ethics" were the hallmark of his service to AAPG. He has advised that it is unethical in and of itself to make a public accusations that question another member's ethics; it is unethical to publicly imply, or to publicly suggest, unethical conduct by another member; s uch concerns are to be decorously and confidentially handled by submission to the ethics committee. I was also Exploration Vice President for Marlan Downey, Past AAPG President, who wrote extensively on ethics for AAPG. Marlan provided the same guidance: public suggestions of unethical conduct against another member is by itself an unethical act on the part of the accuser. If members feel other members acted unethically, they are to confidentially report this feelings to the ethics committee, not take their suspicions into public forums. I would like to see a discussion on the ethics of publicly calling another AAPG member "unethical."
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5/24/2022 9:15:27 AM

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