delara newsDelaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH VOL 36 NUMBER 12
Dan Romanchik KB6NU
What the heck is the ARRL Board thinking?
Posted: 24 Nov 2017 10:42 AM PSTOn Monday, I got an email from the ARRL. Attached were minutes of a Special Board Meeting of the ARRL Board of Directors held by teleconference on Tuesday, November 14, 2017. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but after reading the minutes, I thought to myself, “What heck are these guys thinking?”What the minutes document is the censure of Dick Norton, N6AA, for “criticizing publicly the collective action of the Board of Directors adopting said Code of Conduct and drawing the Board’s collective decision making into disrepute.” Here’s the entire section from the minutes:4. Mr. Carlson, moved, seconded by Mr. Lisenco that:Whereas, Mr. Richard Norton, N6AA, publicly criticized the ARRL Code of Conduct for Board members at a public Amateur Radio gathering by virtue of his characterizations thereof, thus criticizing publicly the collective action of the Board of Directors adopting said Code of Conduct and drawing the Board’s collective decision making into disrepute, in violation of multiple portions of the Code of Conduct, including but not limited to Sections 1.b. and 8.a, 8.b., 8.d; and 8.f; and Whereas, Mr. Norton has been cautioned by Board members that his actions and his manner in the above respects are not acceptable and cannot continue, with no notable change in his behavior since that time; and Whereas, Mr. Norton has been given a copy of the Recommendation of the Ethics and Elections Committee dated September 7, 2017, and has responded to it and tendered to the Board of Directors four statements of ARRL members in support of his response;Now, therefore, the Board of Directors having considered the recommendation of the Ethics and Elections Committee at a Special Meeting of the Board of Directors duly called for the purpose of considering the actions of Mr. Norton and an appropriate remedy therefor, and in view of the information before it and taking into account Mr. Norton’s response and his submissions in response thereto, finds that there exists sufficient cause (i.e. a material violation of the ARRL Code of Conduct that has caused harm to the League) to publicly censure Mr. Norton for his unacceptable behavior as an ARRL Board Member, and Mr. Norton is admonished by the Board that no further, similar behavior will be tolerated. That action is so ordered.After discussion and a roll call vote being requested, the motion was ADOPTED by a vote of 11 Aye, 3 Nay and 1 abstention with Directors Carlson, Olson, Norris, Williams, Lisenco, Blocksome, Frenaye, Pace, Boehner, Allen and Sarratt voting aye, Directors Abernethy, Norton and Woolweaver voting nay, and Director Vallio abstaining.So, what is this ARRL Code of Conduct? This is a recently-adopted (sometime within the past year) document that spells out some of the duties of directors. I wasn’t able to find a new story on the ARRL website as to when it was officially adopted, and I’m wondering what’s up with that?To be fair, the Code does include some good things, such as acting responsibly when it comes to ARRL financial matters and treating ARRL staff with respect. What seems to be questionable, and the reason for N6AA’s censure, however, is Section 8 Support of Board Decisions. It reads:8. SUPPORT OF BOARD DECISIONS: A Board member must accept and publicly support Board decisions.a. A Board member, as a leader in Amateur Radio, is encouraged to be an ambassador and an advocate for ARRL and, subject to the Confidentiality Standard of this Code of Conduct, to publicly promote the activities and actions of the organization with the ARRL membership. In doing so, a Board member must act at all times faithfully to the intent of the Board as expressed in its official statements, and should not reinterpret or re-characterize the Board’s actions to reflect his/her own view or the views of any other Board Member.b. While having the right and responsibility to exercise independent judgment and to express dissenting opinions during Board deliberations, a Board member also has the obligation outside the Boardroom to respect and support final decisions of the Board, ven when the Board member dissented from the majority view.c. A Board member who does not support a Board decision may express his/her opposition within the Board in an appropriate manner.d. A Board member must not take actions publicly or with respect to the ARRL membership that have the purpose or effect of undermining or discrediting the decisions or actions of the Board.e. If a Board member is ultimately unable to accept a Board decision and is unable to influence a change, the Board member should consider voluntarily resigning his/her position on the Board.f. A Board member may not publicly oppose a Board action prior to the effective date of his or her resignation from the Board.In effect, this is a gag order on a director if he disagrees with a Board decision. Not only that, this section seems to say that once someone gets elected to the Board, his allegiance to the Board is more important than the views of the amateur radio operators he represents.One of my Twitter followers put it this way, “Where else can those ostensibly in a position of representation of the organization’s members be punished for publicly criticizing the organization’s rules? US Congress? Parliament of the UK? No, and no. @arrl board is looking more like North Korea than a representative body.” Seriously, can you imagine if the U.S. Congress had such a policy in place?Not only that, as I read the Code of Conduct, this censure is just a slap on the wrist, anyway. It does not say that a board member can be removed from office. All it says is “e. If a Board member is ultimately unable to accept a Board decision and is unable to influence a change, the Board member should consider voluntarily resigning his/her position on the Board.” I say that Mr. Norton should stay and continue to bring issues like this to the membership.The minutes say, “Mr. Norton is admonished by the Board that no further, similar behavior will be tolerated.” What does that mean exactly? Would the board go so far as to attempt to remove him from office and deprive the Southwest Division of their duly-elected director? Can they do that and under what authority?What did Norton actually do?I emailed Norton to find out what he said exactly to bring on this censure. Understandably, he was a little hesitant to speak to me directly. I then asked if I could see the supporting statements.I then received two emails. The first was from Mark Weiss, K6FG. His email contained the text of an email he sent to the ARRL Board of Directors:November 9, 2017Dear ********,This email is sent to you in response Director Dick Norton’s request that I provide you with my recollection of some events that took place at the ARRL Forum during the 2017 International DX Convention in Visalia, California.I don’t recall the identity of all of the members of the Visalia ARRL Forum’s panel, but Dick Norton appeared to be the primary speaker.One of the topics addressed was the new Code of Conduct.Dick Norton began the program by stating that he, as a Director, fully supports the actions of the Board of Directors. He covered some points of the new code that impact his relationship with the membership. Dick then inquired of those present if there were any questions or comments from the floor.In response to Dick’s inquiry, several of us raised our hands and were recognized.When I spoke, I was very direct in my strong opposition to enactment of the confidentiality provisions contained in the Code of Conduct. My expressed thoughts included, but were not limited to the following:1.I acknowledged that Board member loyalty and commitment to the League was properly mandated; but the gag order contained in the Code of Conduct is clearly contrary to my sense of serving the best interests of the ARRL members.2.I stated that contrary to the view expressed by the current ARRL administration, ARRL is a representative organization. That is, our districts elect directors and vice-directors to create and implement policies and rules that best represent the interests of amateur radio in general, AND THE INTERESTS OF OUR DISTRICT IN PARTICULAR.3.It is my understanding that directors and vice-directors are precluded from informing their district members of the various (and conflicting) views expressed by the directors during the legislative process. If my observation is correct, I fear following will occur:A. I may never be provided with information upon which I can evaluate the propriety of the Board’s action.B. I will never know the positions advocated or supported by my director at the Board meeting.C. I will never know if my elected director acted in furtherance of the best interests of the hobby in general, or in the best interests my district in particular.D. I will have no factual basis upon which to support or oppose my director’s bid for reelection when his or her current term ends.Much to my surprise, as I was sitting down after I finished delivering my brief remarks, there was unanimous and very loud applause. I was shocked because I had not intended to stir up widespread opposition to the ARRL leadership’s action; it was my intention to simply express the reasons for my opposition to the Code of Conduct.It was immediately apparent to me that my remarks resonated with nearly everyone in the room. In fact, at the conclusion of discussion of the issue, the call for a vote in support or opposition to the Code of Conduct resulted in an overwhelming condemnation of the Code.The Code of Conduct has been discussed at meetings I attended this year at our local radio clubs. The consensus among the club members was always consistent with the reaction to my comments at the Visalia ARRL Forum.It is my fear that the League is heading down the path of becoming a secret “Star Chamber” organization without the transparency to which our membership is entitled.Please do not form the impression that I believe Board disclosure to the membership is absolute. I indeed recognize the need to maintain confidentiality of proceedings in appropriate circumstances.The Code of Conduct is already generating adverse consequences to the League. I personally know of valuable bequests that have been withdrawn as a result of the new disclosure rules. If this action is a trend, the League will definitely be harmed.It is my opinion that the League’s leadership made a major mistake in adopting the Code of Conduct. Please do what you can to cause the Board to revisit the Code of Conduct legislation. Please remove the “gag order” provisions. Please freshen the air the surrounds the ARRL leadership.Thank you & 73,MARK A. WEISS, K6FGThere was also an email from Tim Duffy, K3LR:Dear Officers and Directors of the American Radio Relay League, Inc.;I attended the ARRL Forum held at the April 2017 International DX Convention in Visalia, California, as I do every year. Dick Norton, N6AA has asked me to report on two of my observations during the ARRL forum.One item discussed at the ARRL forum was the new ARRL code of conduct for ARRL Directors. Dick Norton covered items contained in the code of conduct. It was clear that the audience was not happy about what was being told to them. A number of forum audience participants spoke in strong opposition to certain aspects of the code. My own personal attorney (and ARRL volunteer counsel) K3LA was surprised by what N6AA presented. K3LA is also opposed to the code and seeing the audience was clearly upset by Dick’s presentation concerning the code, he walked out of the room. The opposition came from the upset audience, not from Dick Norton. Norton specifically pointed out that he supports the board’s positions. I have previously discussed this code and other ARRL topics with Dick. I was not surprised by the audience’s strong negative response to the code. Their reaction also mirrors my own feelings.Second, I have been asked to report that there were many other topics covered at the forum. That is true. The code of conduct was only a part of the agenda that Dick discussed at the ARRL forum.Please do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have questions.Very 73,Tim Duffy K3LRARRL Maxim Society & ARRL Diamond Club MemberARRL Life MemberSo, I go back to my original question. What the heck is the ARRL Board thinking, first in passing this draconian Code of Conduct, and second in using it to censure a director, who, according to several accounts, didn’t commit the infraction in the first place? Are they so insecure in their decision-making that they have to resort to gag orders like this? Don’t they see that taking actions like this brings them more “disrepute” than an honest dissenting opinion?This whole situation really baffles me. I’d invite anyone representing the ARRL to shed more light on this.