Career Q&A | By Marie G. McIntyre, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Notary wonders about conflict of interest

Q: My wife's boss has accused me of a conflict of interest. I am a self-employed notary public, and my wife is a bank loan officer. For years, I have been notarizing signatures on her loan documents. To be clear, I do not notarize her signature, only those of the borrowers.

During a recent argument between my wife and her manager, he said this arrangement constitutes a conflict, so she must stop using my services. I offered to work through a notary company in order to avoid receiving payments from the bank, but he also rejected this plan.

According to state regulations, I am legally allowed to notarize documents for my wife's employer. Since the bank has no written policy forbidding it, this feels like a personal vendetta. What do you think I should do?

A: Although this sudden change is understandably upsetting, you must try to view the situation with logic instead of emotion. Since this issue involves your wife's employment, you don't want strong feelings to cloud your judgment.

Keep in mind that an activity may be legal, but risky or unwise nevertheless. Even if state law permits using your services, the bank could still be reasonably concerned about what happens if these documents are ever challenged. While they may have no specific policy regarding notaries, there is undoubtedly a general prohibition against conflicts of interest. Directing income to a family member would typically violate such a policy.

Regardless of the bank's interests, however, you need to consider what will be best for your wife. Since she has been arguing with her boss, problems may have been brewing before the notary issue ever arose. Challenging this decision could further strain their relationship and possibly jeopardize her job security.

The bank apparently regards this matter as settled, so you would be wise to do the same. If you continue to fight this ruling, you could wind up winning the battle, but losing the war.

Transferred worker tired of commute

Q: For a long time, one of my co-workers was very rude and snippy to me. Our new manager recently decided that we should be separated, so she transferred both of us to other branches. My office is now located an hour from home, which is causing a lot of problems. Because this transfer seemed unfair, I made a complaint to our department head. Now he has scheduled a meeting with me and my manager to discuss the situation. How can I get him to move me back to my previous location?

A: Although you blame your snippy colleague for this problem, the fact that both of you were transferred clearly indicates that management holds you responsible as well. They undoubtedly view this as a silly squabble between two immature employees who put their dislike for each other ahead of what's best for the business.

Unless you can acknowledge your contribution to the conflict, your odds of reversing the transfer will be slim. Therefore, when meeting with the department head, you should not complain about anything. Instead, you need to convince him that this has been a learning experience for you.

For example: "I am truly sorry that my disagreements with Brenda created problems for our group. By taking her remarks personally and refusing to speak to her, I just made the situation worse. That was really childish, and it will never happen again.

"Although I completely understand why I was transferred, the hourlong commute is creating problems in my personal life. If you could give me one more chance to work at my former office, I can assure you there will be no more issues."

If you come across as mature, professional and contrite, management may be willing to grant your request. But if you still appear to be angry or resentful, they probably won't consider it.

Notary wonders about conflict of interest 01/19/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 2:07pm]

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