Value of Including Public Members on NYSSCPA Committees
- The NYSSCPA is home to more than 65 committees, most of which
are composed entirely of CPAs. That is as it should be; the Society’s
primary goals include protecting the interests of its CPA members
and helping accounting professionals succeed.
Experiment of ‘Going Public’ Is
But the Society
also exists to protect the public interest, and doing so requires
a willingness to seek out diverse perspectives. With these ideals
in mind, in 2004 then–president John Kearney appointed two
“public” non-CPA members to sit on the Society’s
Quality Enhancement Policy Committee (QEPC). The Society’s
Board of Directors created the QEPC in 2004 to oversee the Professional
Ethics and Peer Review committees and to ensure that peer review,
ethics, and accounting education are continuously meeting the
needs of the accounting profession and the public that it serves.
These public members—John Eickemeyer, a lawyer who represents
CPAs, and H. Stephen Grace, the former chairman of Financial Executives
International (FEI)—are still on the committee today, and
have made tremendous contributions.
public members on the QEPC has proved to be a boon to the committee
and the profession in many ways. First, the profession has gained
an invaluable external perspective on peer review, ethics, and
accounting education. Second, members of the public get to see—up
close and personal—just how hard CPAs work to improve their
profession. Through this interaction, public members (and, by
extension, the public at large) gain a better understanding of
the complex issues facing CPAs, and the depth of thought and knowledge
that goes into decisions. Last, inviting public members to take
part in the Society’s internal process demonstrates the
profession’s commitment to openness and transparency, which
significantly enhances its public image.
Good Deed Deserves Another
NYSSCPA Board of Directors saw firsthand the benefits of including
public members on a Society committee, it wasn’t long before
they thought, “Why stop here?” And in 2006, the QEPC’s
white paper on ethics, which the Board approved, recommended that,
for the first time, a public, non-CPA member sit on the Society’s
Professional Ethics Committee (PEC).
The PEC undertakes
investigations of members accused of ethical violations and is
exactly the kind of committee that can really benefit—in
both perception and reality—from having a public member.
In terms of perception, the PEC plays an important role in demonstrating
to the state the profession’s capacity for self-regulation
and discipline. The idea was that a public PEC member would enhance
both the public perception of the quality of ethics investigations,
and the transparency of the investigation process at the Society
and in New York State. A public member might also improve the
committee’s day-to-day decision-making.
recommended that the PEC’s public member have full participation
and voting rights but not be permitted to conduct investigations.
As envisioned by the board, the ideal public member would be a
former or current consumer of CPA services as well as someone
involved in a business activity that, by its nature, requires
performance at a high level of ethical standards.
York State Comptroller Ned Regan fit the board’s description
perfectly. Ned currently serves as a trustee for the Financial
Accounting Foundation; the Foundation oversees the Financial Accounting
Standards Board (FASB), is responsible for funding the activities
of both FASB and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB),
and selects members to serve on both FASB and GASB. He ended his
tenure as president of Baruch College in 2004 but remains a forceful
advocate for responsible corporate governance as a professor within
the City University of New York (CUNY) system. He also writes
and speaks extensively on the development of accounting standards,
the financing of public infrastructure, and other corporate governance
At the NYSSCPA’s
Annual Dinner on May 17, then–QEPC chair and incoming NYSSCPA
president David Lifson asked Ned if he would like to serve on
the PEC. Ned agreed, and the PEC now has the first public member
in its history. I have no doubt that, in Ned’s case, the
“public member experiment” will prove to be as fruitful
and rewarding as it has been for the QEPC, the Society, the profession,
and the public.
Publisher, The CPA Journal
Executive Director, NYSSCPA