A few weeks ago, I posted an open letter I wrote to the Georgia and Southeast Division ARRL leadership regarding proposed changes to the ARRL’s bylaws that I read about. Earlier today, the ARRL posted this news article on their website in response to what has been written about online and said about those proposed changes. I hope I have been misled about what I read, but I still don’t like some of what I’ve read that is going to be considered and I still hope that the changes I’ve read about will not be adopted. Should they be adopted, my response will remain the same. I am glad, however, that the ARRL President has decided to address the issue and I hope that he, the Board of Directors, and the League are open and transparent about the proposed changes and the process by which they are considered.
A Note to Members from ARRL President Rick Roderick, K5UR
In the last few weeks, the ARRL’s Board of Directors has been the subject of an organized misinformation campaign. It is being orchestrated by a group of hams, some of whom are well-intentioned but have been misled. This effort, which consists of a series of mischaracterizations, initially dealt with (1) the ARRL Board’s censure of an ARRL Director, and (2) some proposed revisions to ARRL’s Articles of Association and Bylaws that are likely to be considered at the upcoming ARRL Board meeting and which were circulated by a member of the Board. None of the proposed Article and Bylaw changes has yet been addressed by the Board of Directors. More recently, other equally erroneous and false statements have been made with respect to completely unrelated issues, in an effort to draw into question ARRL’s decision-making processes. The principal suggestion is that ARRL operates under some “cloak of secrecy.” The criticism is unfair and undeserved.
ARRL’s representative system of governance, which has worked exceptionally well in the advocacy and promotion of Amateur Radio and the interests of ARRL members for more than 100 years, is unchanged. And the legislative and other advocacy positions currently being pursued are critical to the long-term survivability of the Amateur Radio Service.
The ARRL Board does seek thoughtful, informed input on policy issues concerning Amateur Radio from its roughly 150,000 members. ARRL’s governance structure provides that regionally elected, volunteer directors will represent the interests of the members in their respective Divisions, working collectively and collegially within our Board to make policy and to advocate their constituents’ interests. ARRL’s Board members hold cabinet meetings and forums at hamfests and conventions, and they staff ARRL booths at hamfests and conventions in order to find out what interests and concerns you have as ARRL members. They take this feedback from you, and they come to Board meetings twice a year to make policy for the organization. They work together collegially to develop the best policy decisions. This structure presumes that the Board’s collective wisdom is far greater than that of any one Board member, and each Board member is obligated by our Articles and Bylaws to come to meetings with a good idea of what the members need and what is best for Amateur Radio as a whole.
As is the case with most large, national non-profit associations, ARRL Board meetings are not open to the public. It has always been that way, as a matter of necessity. That is because, at all such meetings, confidential issues such as spectrum protection, employee compensation, financial information, and FCC submissions are candidly discussed, and the members’ interests at those meetings are advocated by the Directors on a representative basis.
Unfortunately, it was necessary for the Board to take the highly unusual action of publicly censuring one of its members recently. The Board heard the allegations made by an ARRL member of what transpired at an Amateur Radio event; it heard reports from other amateurs who were there, and it heard all the information that the Director involved chose to present. Everyone had a chance to speak and to evaluate the presentations. The Board, in an 11 to 3 vote with one abstention, took action to protect the organization’s integrity based on the information presented. This process and procedure are what nonprofit associations have to be prepared to employ, and do employ, to maintain order within their organizations and to ensure that the interests of the affected Director are protected as well. This is not a procedure that any nonprofit organization would conduct publicly.
The ARRL Policy on Board Governance and Conduct of Members of the Board of Directors and Vice Directors has been drawn into question, probably as the result of the fact that the Board’s censure decision was based upon a violation of that policy by the Director involved. The Policy is intended to protect the democratic decision-making processes by which ARRL has operated effectively for so long, and to set forth principles to guide an organization’s decision making and the behavior of individual board members when acting on behalf of ARRL. When it was adopted by the Board a year ago, it was posted for ARRL members to read. The policy calls for honesty, integrity, transparency, confidentiality, and equity. The purpose of adopting such a statement formally is to provide employees, volunteers, and board members with guidelines for making ethical choices and to ensure that there is accountability for those choices.
When board members of a nonprofit adopt a code of ethics, they are expressing their commitment to ethical behavior. It is intended to protect the Board’s deliberations and to protect the staff from inappropriate actions by Board members. It seeks to preclude precisely the type of selective disclosures and unilateral and subjective characterizations of proposed Board actions that have happened recently. There is nothing at all insidious about the policy, which is subject to regular review and modification, as are all other ARRL organizational documents.
As to the criticism of the proposed Articles and Bylaws changes, the Board has not yet considered them. It may or may not adopt some or all of the changes recommended by its Executive Committee or by an individual Director. Any responsible Board of Directors regularly reviews, amends and updates its Articles and Bylaws. And ARRL member input is welcome on all such subjects. Indeed, the recommended Article and Bylaw changes were not considered to be Board confidential. The problem, however, is that it is not fair to members, or to the representative Directors who have yet to evaluate them collectively, to have the proposals mischaracterized or misrepresented.
ARRL Directors are volunteers. They are smart, dedicated radio amateurs who each devote thousands of hours per year of their own time to representing you as best they can.
To those who try to suggest that the Board has abandoned its obligation to the members in favor of the organization — you draw a distinction that doesn’t exist. The Board absolutely understands that the members are the organization. The members of ARRL are always best served by an informed Board that works together to make policy that is in the best interests of the organization. The divisive tactics that are being used now, commenced through disinformation and a lack of candor, are harmful not only to the organization, but to Amateur Radio operators everywhere, the good work of the ARRL staff, and the Service that we love so much.
Rick Roderick, K5UR, President
ARRL — the national association for Amateur Radio