We’d been putting it off for months so I was pleased when a colleague of mine, also in association management, suggested brunch a couple of Sundays ago. He is a seasoned marketing and PR pro with lots of Life’s entrees already consumed. It’s worth the calories of strawberry waffles just on the chance he’ll spill a couple of tantalizing client stories.

But on this day, we found ourselves talking about more serious matters. Turns out we’d both just read a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers citing an alarming increase in turnover rate for CEOs; over 12 percent, the highest since the study began nearly 20 years ago. But here’s the disturbing number: 39% of those have left “under a cloud of ethical lapses, which can encompass fraud, insider trading, sexual indiscretions” and theft.

While these statistics covered the corporate sector, this aberrant behavior is mirrored in the trade association and nonprofit world. Is there no one we can trust?

My friend recounted his own recent and woeful story of helping a struggling publicist by letting her help with a project he was on. This was a very lucrative account – his largest. Well, you’ve no doubt guessed the end of his story. She put him in a bad light, went around his back and actually slept with the president of the association’s board. She stole the account.

Having had two situations in my career when a close associate committed betrayal beyond what I thought possible, I felt his pain more than I let on.

“So, how has this left you,” I asked. “She has to live on being the despicable person she is. Sooner or later she’ll do it again. I have integrity. After all, when organizations come to people like you and me, the overarching product and service we guarantee is our integrity.”

I paid for the waffles.

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