By virtually all accounts, Hospice of the Bluegrass provides wonderful support to people struggling through some of the most difficult circumstances they will ever face.
Also, according to a story in Sunday's Herald-Leader, the non-profit has done a considerable amount of business with firms closely connected to its board members.
Some people responding to the story asserted that Hospice's exemplary service makes the issues raised in the article irrelevant, unnecessary, even offensive.
We argue just the opposite.
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Hospice's important work helping individuals and families navigate the medical, emotional, even economic challenges they face at the end of a life relies so basically on trust that it must take special care to conduct its business ethically and transparently.
Attorney Tim Cone, responding for Hospice to reporter John Cheves' questions, insisted Hospice is "not required to be subjected to the improper scrutiny you seek to focus on the organization or the distractions from serving hospice patients your inquiries create."
Frankly, that response is more troubling than most of what the story reported.
It came after Hospice failed to provide documentation that it had promised, including board minutes and bidding documents showing how insider deals were handled.
The self dealing in itself did not seem excessive nor was there any indication that people close to the organization were getting sweetheart deals with Hospice.
And it is certainly true that there is no requirement that any individual or organization provide a news reporter with information.
However, it's too easy and too common for organizations and individuals doing good work to become sloppy about these kinds of details, trusting that everyone is working in good faith.
But, as Denise Clore, director of the Non-profit Leadership Initiative at the University of Kentucky, told Cheves, non-profits rely on public trust and so transparency is essential. "It's a perception issue as much as anything and a lot of the time, as we all know, the perception of a situation can prove more problematic than the situation itself."
If Hospice and other non-profits want to continue the good work they do, their officers and directors must commit themselves to protecting that trust — not just in how they provide services but also by how they conduct their business.