According to the 2014 Strategic Planning retreat summary, Board has difficulty “recognizing the positive aspects of people they have had complex relationships with”. Do you believe this is a current problem in the OTW? What do you think can be done to create a more professional environment?
This is definitely a current problem in the OTW, and I believe the best way to deal with it is to create an environment where everyone is held accountable for their decisions and actions as part of a system that has inherent checks and balances in its processes. Once you have to publicly explain why you are in favour of or against a request or decision, and people can challenge this without fear of punishment, it becomes much harder to dismiss good ideas because of personal grudges.
Several of the Board’s minutes for their closed sessions this year had items like this: “Discussion of how to proceed in a complaint against a staffer.” Under what circumstances do you think it appropriate for the Board to file complaints against individual staffers? Do you foresee any potential problems or conflicts of interest with regards to something like this?
Board is in a position of power over staff and volunteers, and is the one ultimately in charge of investigating and judging CCAP, as far as I’m aware. Due to these circumstances I don’t believe there is any situation where it would be acceptable that board (as an entity) file a complaint against staffers. It’s a blatant conflict of interest: board can’t be complainant, judge, jury and executioner against people they’re displeased with. That can very easily be an abuse of power, and help board get rid of people voicing opinions they disagree with.
The Board has retained an outside lawyer on a pro bono basis to advise them on various issues, including the involuntary removal of volunteers from the Org. What impact do you think this decision has had on the Org’s culture? Do you believe this is a useful tool for conflict management? Under what circumstances do you think external legal counsel specifically retained by and for the Board alone, in opposition to other volunteers in the Org, might be an appropriate step to take?
I had no knowledge this lawyer had been on retainer for the org until the events with Sanders were disclosed last week. I don’t know what role this lawyer has had so far with regards to other board decisions and what kind of specialization they have. I can see why we might need someone external to the organization to complement a knowledge gap in our legal team; but if this is the case, I don’t think they should have dealings with board exclusively, but also with the Legal committee and other interested parties in the org, as the case may be.
Apart from that, an outside lawyer is not a useful tool for conflict management because this lawyer will answer primarily to board and serve the board’s interests, making them not-impartial by default. They shouldn’t be considered a neutral party in any kind of conflict resolution or volunteer removal process.
There have been repeated complaints about the behavior of Directors toward staff and volunteers who have expressed that they have no avenue for addressing this sort of behavior. While Directors may now remove each other, most of these reports indicate that the rest of the Board was either dismissive of the concerns or actually supported the abusive actions of their colleagues. What are your feelings about exploring and instituting a process by which a requisite number of chairs, staff, and/or volunteers can call for a vote of the membership to consider the removal of a Director who has engaged in unprofessional conduct, abusive behavior, or otherwise violated the organization’s Code of Conduct?
I support any measure that will add an extra layer of independent control and checks to board directors behaviour. That said, with the current number of OTW members, this process would be drawn-out and draining, because getting the word out to the several thousand members about internal matters so that they can make an informed decision is nearly impossible. I believe we need a simpler and more straightforward process to deal with clear cases of bullying or Code of Conduct violations coming from board members, similar to what we have for all other volunteers right now.