Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why have formal processes for board member removal?

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.


  1. I thought there was a formal process. I know that recall petitions have been attempted in two cases. Are you suggesting an improved process of some kind?

    By the way, I definitely agree with your earlier point about having a whistle blower process. One point to consider, however, is that perhaps an effective whistle blower process would have eliminated a lot of the ensuing controversy about the report, and led to a successful recall.


  2. Jim,

    Thank you for the feedback and you make a good point about the possibility of eliminating much of the controversy. I hope the organization has something better in place if there is a next time.

    Some of the subcomponents may have formal processes that are yet to be realized. Recall only applies to officers and not all board members just like our standards of conduct. We have yet to get a recall election going so the voters can actually express their wishes on the matter at hand. As designed right now a recall effort can be sought for any reason and has a bar so high to activate, it may be unreachable. It is just one of many tools in the overall steps to remove a board member through proper due process.

    Generalizing doesn’t apply to everyone but often helps us discover cultural patterns that can be addressed. Why does the struggle over the process of removing a board member seem so bitter? An interesting observation is it appears the USCF leadership unconsciously follows the rule of triadic interaction: “the friend of my friend is my friend, the friend of my enemy is my enemy, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, the enemy of my friend is my enemy.” There even appears to be no room to be objective or neutrality here as I have also seen it practiced “if you are not my friend you are my enemy.” Those involved will strongly deny that this has anything to do with what they think of others of whom they claim to have earned their distain. I would suggest it may unfortunately be part of the equation.

    For example, I have been criticized for being in favour of OMOV because Bill Goichberg was also in favour of it; for supporting the ability to petition a recall of officials because Donna Alaire was involved; for being in favour of equal opportunity within the rules to run for office because I would allow such people as Brian Laffery to participate; and for even agreeing with the likes of Larry Parr on some of the aspects of drug testing. Hopefully those contributing to this blog won’t be valued less because they support my efforts to also contribute.

    In my view, to improve we need to focus on the future process and not the past or the people involved. To get past polarization by who/what we appear or not appear to support we may need to transition to evaluating each issue on its merits rather than making the people who disagree with us or we do not like the issue.