Katarina Harju 2015 Q&A: Election Process

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?

I think many of us have simply reached a point where we feel that there is no choice but to try and change the way the Board functions, and it’s clear that that can only be done from inside the Board. I believe we are all aware that it will not always be easy to change things, but if we can successfully implement clear policies for the Board, achieve more transparency, and in general change the Board’s culture for the better, then I think there would be more people willing to step up as candidates in the following elections as well.

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?

While I believe a professional and ethical Board would never behave in such a manner, I do still think that we need to implement strict policies for non-interference in the election process. The Elections committee should be allowed to carry out its work with the authority that the Board has given it in the first place, without any interference from the Board. I think punishing volunteers for showing an interest and getting involved falls under the same category as any other abusive behaviour toward volunteers, which is why we need to have clear policies for acceptable behaviour for Board members in general, and clear consequences when the lines of what is acceptable are crossed.

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 want to make a small correction to the question; according to the bylaws, the Board would not, in fact, have to wait for a candidate they approved of, but could appoint anyone they wanted to take the place of a Director that had been removed. Furthermore, the number of Directors is not set in the bylaws and only needs a resolution of the Board to be changed.

The timing of the change in the bylaws regarding the removal of a Director (August 2015) is unfortunate, and coupled with the reduction in the numbers of Board seats, it has understandably given rise to a lot of doubts regarding the Board’s motivations. What is important, however, is that the reduction in seats means that there will be five Directors for the next term; if I’m not incorrect, an absolute two-thirds majority would mean that all four other Directors would have to agree on the removal of any one Director, and I have to believe that not all of them would choose to behave so unprofessionally.