What are the proper or usual steps to remove a board member?
1. Discuss situation with member and/or submit a report to the board
2. Ask member to resign or schedule a leave of absence
3. Accept complaint/report activating a committee process
4. Petition a recall or conduct board removal vote
5. Seek impeachment or court removal
6. Ultimately term limits (including the length of time on the board and how many total terms) should remove the member
Why should a board member be removed? An ineffective board member causes stress, slows progress and weakens the morale of the rest of the board. Reasons for removal should be based on the person's current actions with regard to the organization, not on whether they are not a nice person, on something objectionable done in the past, or on their non public behavior. Constantly missing meetings, introducing conflicts of interest, other breaches of fiduciary duty or board policy, illegal or inappropriate behavior while serving on/running for the board, and preventing others from functioning are all reasons why a board member should be removed. Actions that are contrary to the wishes of the membership are harder to justify unless the actions have injured the reputation or negatively affected the finances or viability (like loss of membership/sponsorship) of the organization. All of the above should be items considered by our organization’s Bylaws/Ethics Committees and ultimately by our Board of Directors when putting proper steps in place.
What happened? In October 2007 when I was discussing with Bill Hall the steps to take in regard to the allegations presented in the Mottershead report it became clear there were no formal procedures in place to be able to resolve such concerns. With no formal procedures, we understand the President of the USCF Executive Board and also possibly the USCF Executive Director felt it might be best to come up with a report and suggested it be sent it to the USCF Ethics Committee. As a result a report was created and submitted to the USCF Executive Board for their review. In the mean time the information was distributed throughout the organization which within a few weeks found itself in the hands of the media and general public. The USCF Executive Board (EB) appointed a Board Subcommittee to consider issues related to charges made by Brian Mottershead. Once the report’s conclusions were verified a complaint was also submitted to the USCF Ethics Committee for their review. A request for resignation and a petition for recall were attempted. Eventually an action was submitted for court removal of the board member.
So what? It has been argued that if the initial findings had been presented to Bill Hall, and he determined a more thorough investigation take place, a person with more background and loyalty to the USCF should have picked it up and carried the finding to the ethics committee, or a special committee set up by the EB to investigate it. One can argue this actually is what happened - just not in a way everyone desired. We can endlessly debate the lack of formal process, the slowness of the activities, the uncoordinated and overlapping steps, media reporting impacts, as well all the related infighting and finger pointing. One can only point out that as far as we know the duplicative steps of impeachment or a forced leave of absence were not invoked and all of those involved in pursuing proper steps appear to have suffered some form of retaliation. Perhaps better term limits could have helped. It seemed like more membership energy was expended trying to verify/discredit the report or discover how the public got the information rather than to properly adjudicate who did what the report had claimed. When our leadership sets an example by fighting we should expect no less from our members. If we are to learn from what has happened, all of these points can be areas for future improvement as well as provide motivation for a more formal process for board member removal.