Saturday, December 10, 2016

League elections not immune to a little director plotting, influence ...

Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 -- I was going to write some more about corruption -- or the appearance of it -- in the ARRL, but CQ beat me to it.

Rich Moseson, W2VU, write a spot-on editorial about an incumbent director who was being challenged by a past director in the Southeastern Division. Right after the election period for director began, the challenger was declared elected. WTF?

Well, no one knows exactly why the incumbent director was apparently disqualified -- officially anyway. But the incumbent was an advocate for greater transparency in the ARRL; this includes making board meetings open to the public (or at least streaming them for public consumption).

CQ Magazine column

Election Drama Down South
This has nothing to do with the general election, which was still two weeks away when this was written and will (hopefully) be decided by the time you read this. No, this is about the election for director in the ARRL's Southeastern Division, or rather, the non-election. In a very unusual move, the ARRL's Elections and Ethics Committee disqualified an incumbent director from seeking re-election, and what made it even more unusual was that the decision was made well after the committee granted routine approval for his candidacy and announced the election. What was not unusual was the way in which the process played out, in secret, with very little information provided to the members.
Back on August 25, the ARRL announced upcoming elections for director in the Southeastern and Rocky Mountain Divisions. In the southeast, the announcement said, "former Director Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, will attempt to regain that position from sitting Director Doug Rehman, K4AC … Ballots and candidates' statements will go out to members eligible to vote … no later than October 1, 2016, with a return deadline for completed ballots of November 18."
Then, on October 6, five days after the voting period began, the League issued the following very brief announcement: "Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, has been declared elected as Director of the ARRL Southeastern Division, to take office at noon Eastern Time on January 1, 2017."
Huh? What happened to the election? As usual in ARRL politics, there was a lot more than meets the eye going on here. Based on what we can determine — and there are conflicting accounts, of course — the board's Elections and Ethics committee voted to disqualify Rehman on the basis of actions he took following the announcement of the election, a decision that was subsequently ratified by a majority of the full board of directors. The specifics appear to be subject to interpretation, so we won't get into them here, but actually, the specifics are irrelevant in this case. What is significant is the procedure.
The cornerstone of Doug Rehman's initial campaign and of his time on the League board has been to push for greater openness and transparency in the ARRL's decision-making process, something we have been promoting for years (decades?). He even proposed making the board meetings available to members via live streaming over the internet.
What is amazing here is that the process by which Rehman was disqualified from seeking re-election proved his point about excessive secrecy in the League's decision-making process. The members in his division not only were not informed of the reasons for his disqualification, they weren't even told he'd been disqualified! Just a one-sentence announcement less than a week into supposed voting that the incumbent director's opponent had been declared elected. By whom? Certainly not the members. How? Unspecified. Why? None of your business.
When I tried to get more details, I was told it was "a personnel matter." Wrong. A League director is not an employee; a League director is an elected representative of the members. And if the board is taking the extreme step of taking away the members' right to vote for their representative, then the least it can do is provide an explanation and not hide behind "a personnel matter."
Regardless of what Rehman may or may not have done in the current situation, he is on target that the League operates with far too much secrecy. It is the only membership organization we know of that routinely prohibits members from observing board meetings, and now it has even taken away the members' right to vote in its most populous division. You might call it a denial of service. The members need to demand change now.
On a more pleasant note, all the best to all of you from all of us for a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, solstice celebration or whatever other holiday you may observe as we seek to add light to our short winter days.
– 73, Rich, W2VU

THE REST OF THE STORY. As always, there's more to the story than meets the eye. To save you some reading, I'll give you the Reader's Digest version.

Doug Rehman was elected as director of the Southeastern Division in Nov. 2013. He didn't really campaign, and the margin was just 12 votes. But still he won and was duly named winner. 

In his three years as director, Rehman was something of an upstart; he didn't always play by the good-old-boy rules that have been applied to the board of directors. For example, the board always wanted to show its unity on issues by not publicly disclosing dissent among board members in the discussions on issues. Rehman lobbied for better communication with ARRL members; he sought improved transparency of the board and the ARRL's actions. He was critical of the board's moves to maintain secrecy of the board meetings, etc. He rubbed the ARRL the wrong way and challenged the status quo.

In August 2016, Rehman and the former director filed to run for director, and the ARRL's ethics and election committee certified both as qualified candidates. But the ethics and elections committee took issue with Rehman's 300-word campaign statement, as well as postings he placed on his campaign Facebook page and website. Then in Sept. 19th, he received a message that he had been disqualified as a candidate for director, and the other candidate was declared the next director.

Here's a link to the ethics and election committee's report on their disqualification of Rehman as a candidate.

The irony is that another director complained about some of Rehman's campaign statements because -- according to this director -- they were disparaging toward the ARRL and the board of directors. One example was Rehman's campaign statement on his profile page, to wit: 

The election in the Southeastern Division is going to be a referendum on ARRL Board governance including ethics, transparency, accountability, and vision for the future.

Over the coming weeks I will pull the curtain back on the ARRL Board and the bleak future the League faces unless there is serious reform—reform that will only happen if the membership pays attention to whether or not they are being served by their representatives. I’ll be posting a number of motions to address issues with governance and ethics, motions that I will make at the January 2017 Board meeting if reelected.

There are some good people on the Board, but far too few. In the coming weeks, I’ll give you some insight of things to look for in the purposefully cryptic Board minutes that will help you determine who the good guys are and who the institutionalized power elites are (or were).

Start taking back the League now by spreading this message to every amateur that you can!

My, my, what "disgusting" and "libelous" statements! One would almost think Rehman actually believed he had freedom of expression in the democratic election process for Southeastern director. Complaints against Rehman also include the fact he may have disclosed secret board information.

But Rehman also ruffled feathers at HQ with a couple of ethics complaints against his competitor -- you can judge the value of those complaints on your own. It doesn't look like either had much of a chance of going anywhere, but did raise some questions that deserved answers.

One of Rehman's campaign promises was to make audio recordings of board meetings, with the exception of the committee of the whole. He often wrote about the board and its need for openness. Not a bad idea.

In my terms as section manager, I got an inside look at the board politics. One of my fellow SMs in my division had some excellent contacts on the board --- contacts who were in a different division -- and thanks to him, me and the fellow SMs got daily updates each time the board met. We also learned how often our director didn't attend the full board meetings but had the assistant director fill in (he enjoyed the booze a little too much). One goal that split the board was getting rid of Dave Sumner, K1ZZ. There was never a majority of the board at the time that wanted to boot Dave at the time; by the time there was a majority, he was already planning to retire, and the board let Dave continue with his league employment until his retirement.

I have a great deal of respect for a director who wants to try to reform the system and bring membership into the loop; I wonder what would happen if half a dozen candidates for director threw their respective hats in the ring on a reform platform? As a reformer, half a dozen elected newcomers would be a significant voting bloc that could pull back the curtain on the board of directors. Its an interesting idea ... any reformers want to run for director in your division? Lets stir that pot a little! One suggestion however -- don't get too radical or the Leagues ethics & elections committee will declare ineligible!