Sunday, June 19, 2005

Constitutional Crisis (Part 2)

Since my last post I have followed with a mixture of nausea and amusement continued email bickering on whether the vote at the annual meeting and the subsequent grievances followed procedural rules correctly. Nausea, because it appears to me that both sides are interpreting the constitution selectively to support their side. Amusement, because both bickering sides are wasting valuable time and energy arguing about a constitution they both want to get rid of.

In the interest of being “selective” myself, I will highlight a few significant points I’ve seen in the email traffic.

Here is the resolution that was proposed in the grievance that was ultimately submitted:

“1) Removal of all Constitutional amendment information currently on the USATH website, which was published as a result of Mr. Siskind’s motion.

2) Publishing of an announcement on USATH the web site that after further analysis, the motion and the vote at the annual meeting violated the USATH Constitution, and that USATH is revisiting the process with guidance from the USOC.

3) Formation a committee (four to six people) from the Board to review the work done by the Constitutional Review Committee and where needed, modify the Constitution presented. This committee shall get conceptual approval from the USOC on the new Constitution and then present it to the Board for final approval.

4) Presentation of the new Constitution to the USATH membership for approval in full compliance with the current USATH Constitution.”

And here is a nutshell summary response to this compromise from the President of USA Team Handball, Mike Hurdle:

“So what do I gain out of the compromise? Board involvement in the
writing of the new constitution! And this is what this is all about.”

There are a lot of tangential procedural and philosophical points that have also been made, but I’m going to focus on the compromise as I think, while flawed, it is a step in the right direction.

First the flaws in the compromise:

1) There is no need to remove the Constitution from the website. It’s already been on there for 3 weeks. And what a great opportunity to collect valuable feedback from the membership. I know that I appreciated the opportunity to send in my comments. Surely, if Board Members have had the time for long winded emails concerning conflicting procedural issues, they’ve also had the time to review the document and send in their comments as well. We should continue to collect suggestions and use them to help build a new draft of the document.

2) Let’s avoid a declaration that the vote was in violation of the constitution. And instead of “revisiting the process” let’s publish exactly what the process and timeline for developing the new constitution will be. This timeline should also be aggressive to meet USOC governance directives. No stonewalling of this effort should be allowed.

3) As a part of that new process, I could support a Board of Director review of the next draft of the Constitution. Of course, there’s nothing that requires this, but if it is done quickly and openly, I see more benefit then harm. In particular, it would be much more enlightening to see spirited Board discussion on actual elements of the new constitution. This discussion should be transparent and on the website or on an email list. Also, while this extra review by the $3,000 club should carry significant weight, it should not be directive to the Constitutional Review Committee. In other words, the adjudicating body that decides what goes into the final draft is the Constitutional Review Committee, not the Board of Directors.

As far as Mike’s point that the real issue is “Board involvement in the Constitution,” I think he’s absolutely correct. While both sides have maneuvered around procedural issues, this in reality is the real issue. Some elements of the Board feel that this Constitution is being rammed down their throats and Mike & Company don’t want to allow the Board to prevent needed change either through delaying tactics and/or significant modifications to the Constitution.

Well, I say both sides are right to a point. And both sides may very well have enough strength to mobilize a no vote on a final constitution they don’t like. Both sides need to recognize this and compromise so that we can move on to debates on issues like:

- $3,000 requirement for Board members
- Whether 4 “Independent” Board Members are sufficient
- Whether procedures for independent nominations for Presidency should be added
- Whether the CEO should be selected by a vote of the membership or the nine newly elected board members.