Dan Lamson 2015 Q&A: Election Process

Note: Dan has withdrawn from the race, but he completed his answers before withdrawing, so they will be posted to the site.

After a few years of uncontested elections (including one which garnered 0 candidates initially), there are now more candidates than ever before for the smallest number of seats ever up for election. To what do you attribute this sudden surge of candidates, and what would you do during your time on the Board to promote consistent contested elections for Board seats?

First off, I want to say that I love that the election is contested! I think it is a great testament to how the org has grown. I see it as a very good thing that more people are interested in the direction the organization is going.

I would love to see every election contested. I think it brings out good discussion and new or takes on things and new ideas to the forefront. This year, I think we have more candidates than ever because there is some distrust between staffers and board. I’m sorry that it is the case, and I am sure board is not as evil as is sometimes assumed. But people are upset this year. What do we want the OTW to be and how do we want it to work? There seems to be differing opinions here, and I think this is the crux of why there are so many more people running this year than normal.

While the current election process is more independent than it was in previous years, it is still subject to some decisions made by the Board, which can be passed at any time without input from volunteers. It’s possible for the Board to even change the rules while an election is in progress to exclude some candidates or voters or to punish volunteers for visibly participating in the process. If elected, how would you ensure that each future election is unaffected by interests within the sitting Board?

Is it possible? I am not sure. I imagine the next few weeks will determine several of these things. (I am writing this answer early on September 25.) I do not believe that board should influence the elections or the change the process mid-election. I believe all qualified candidates interested in running should be eligible, based on the eligibility requirements of the day they registered to run for board. I think there could, in future elections, be a mechanism to remove a disruptive/abusive candidate, but at this time, removing someone after they’ve registered and qualified is not something I would advocate were I on board.

I know everyone in the org doesn’t always get along. I hope this kind of excluding people for running for board, or attacking them does not become the norm. It is not something that should happen, and frankly makes the org look bad. I am not sure there is anything one board member could do to stop it, as you need a majority to get things done. But I can say right now, that I would not attempt to tamper with an ongoing election in this or any way if I am elected. When there is no election going on, that is the time to change the rules and perhaps clarify things to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future. I would support such measures.

What do you think about the fact that two changes to the bylaws (reduction in size of board from seven to nine [sic], and the ability of two-thirds of the board to vote off another member with or without cause) means the board could dilute the election process? Effectively, the standing board could vote off any candidate who wins and with whom they disagree until they reach a candidate of whom they approve. Are you concerned about this?

I am not sure what to make of the none to seven change. Perhaps it was a logical thing to do, since there has never been so many people running for election as there are this year. I know some years it has been hard to find candidates to fill empty seats. I do not think there was anything illegal or underhanded about the change. The current board functions more as an executive committee than a traditional board, and the larger executive committees are, the harder it is for things to get done.

As to the board voting people off, I discussed in conflict resolution answers, I feel that there needs to be a way to get abusive or bad board members off the board. The way it stood prior to this change was they could serve the full term being as bad of a person as they wanted. Now, I do not think this is something that should be used lightly or often. It should be only for egregious violations of the code of conduct. This should not be a response to remove someone because they are not who board wanted elected. And I don’t think any board would do this. I kind of see this as impeachment like they have in the US. It’s been used a few times, sometimes justly and successfully, but often it just makes the users look bad, and accomplishes nothing. I would not use this power lightly, but if there was a board member who was acting in a way unbecoming of an OTW board member, and would not change or resign on their own, I would be happy to have it.