Monday, March 31, 2014

Board embarrasses itself with weak case against Curtis

Over the next few posts, leading up to the April 27 meeting, I’m going to try and deal with some of the issues that arose at the meeting and look at them in a little more detail with the information I have.

First off is the OCA board's decision to remove Dale Curtis from her position as Vice-President (she did keep her position on the board).

I think it’s safe to say that most people were shocked when it was announced that Dale had been removed from her position as First Vice-President.

I was also told that prior to yesterday’s meeting, OCA president Ian McGillis and past president Joan O’Leary asked Curtis to resign from the board, which she smartly refused to do.

This entire episode is an embarrassing mess.

First off, I really had a hard time understanding how the board could make a move such as this at that time. I realize they had a board meeting on the Saturday, but really . . . a day before you’re about to meet with the angry masses and you chop the one person these folks have been able to have faith in?

Not very bright.

To many of the people in that room, Curtis was a glimmer of hope. After all, she stuck her neck out to get that Special General Meeting. No matter how the board spun it, they weren’t going to get any sympathy for voting her out. Even if they had just cause for chopping her, it never should have happened at that time. The optics are simply horrible and it put the board in a big hole just moments after the meeting started.

And when it comes to just cause, it seems the board was a little lacking in any evidence. There was lots of guilt by association but these folks aren't going to be admitted to the bar any time soon. 

At first, the cause for her termination was apparently that she exercised her right to call the special general meeting.

Later in the meeting, Joan O’Leary said there was more to the dismissal than that. She stated that Curtis had been in disagreement with the board for some time and also wasn’t toeing the party line when it came to decisions. She stated that once a board makes a decision, there should be public unanimity behind that decision no matter what went on in the boardroom. That apparently wasn’t the case with Curtis.

But the biggest problem seemed to be that the board believed Curtis was a leak, that she was sending board documents and communication to outsiders

They accused her of giving documents to blogs, which I assumed included or meant me, which I can assure you is not true. I’ve never had any communication with Curtis whatsoever and I stated that at the meeting.

More troubling was that O’Leary point-blank accused her of giving a CCA letter to Colin Sinclair, her partner. Earlier in the meeting, Sinclair referenced the letter and produced a copy. O’Leary’s theory was that only Curtis could have given it to him.

But when Sinclair asked her if she had proof of that, she couldn’t produce any.

Now I can tell you that letter had been in the hands of every member of the OCA board as well as every member of the CCA board. Any one of them could have passed it on to Sinclair. I can tell you that I received a copy of the letter and it wasn’t from Curtis or Sinclair or anyone associated with the OCA.

So let’s review: Curtis didn’t break any rules by calling for a Special general meeting. There is no proof that she leaked any documents to anyone. So the only reason for dismissal seems to be that she didn’t agree with a lot of what the board decided.

For that, she’s been pushed from her position and apparently from becoming the president next year.

Perhaps there's more that the board isn't telling us, but right now this really seems like an attempt to shut up someone who has the right to speak up. 

At the meeting on April 27, there will be a vote to re-instate Dale Curtis and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

OCA board gets an earful at special general meeting


Wow. Wow. Wow.

Sunday’s Special General Meeting of the Ontario Curling Association was at times shocking and at other times encouraging. At times it was calm and civil and at other moments unruly.

When it was all over -- after about three hours – I was left with a number of different feelings. I had some sympathy for the board members, who are volunteers, but also with the sense that curling in Ontario is truly lost. The folks at the top really have run this ship onto the rocks. The two themes that kept coming out over and over were that that governance model of the OCA is in need of a major overhaul and that that this board is a disaster when it comes to communication.

There were about 150 people in attendance, 34 of them voting members, the rest either zone reps or concerned curlers of various shapes, sizes and talents. There were world champions there and once-a-week knee sliders, folks from down in Windsor and up to Ottawa, all looking for answers.

There was also a Durham Regional police officer at the back of the room. I asked him if he was there as a curler or for security. He said security and then said: “I thought this was a gentleman’s game.”


The meeting got off to a shocking start when it was learned that a day earlier, the board voted to remove Dale Curtis from her position as first Vice-President (she kept her spot as a board member).
Curtis, of course, was the woman who bravely used her position to call for a Special General Meeting after the board ruled the request for an SGM by a group of voting members didn’t qualify as a request due to a technicality.

More on Curtis and this situation a little later.

After some opening remarks and some housekeeping from president Ian McGillis, Gord Gark was called up to make a presentation on behalf of the board, which was a basic time line of the events that led the OCA into a position of being a member not in good standing. It was pretty much the same information that has been recounted in the statement that appeared on the OCA web site.

The story was that everything was based on a confidential OCA memo forwarded by someone to the CCA, the OCA wanted a mediator to settle things, the CCA never provided a copy of the investigative report. There was nothing new here; it was the party line. Many parts of this story are in dispute with the CCA and Peter Inch, who was there on behalf of the CCA (No one from the CCA was invited to attend), stood up to mention that a bit later.

The OCA said the original memo was confidential but that was disputed by several people who said that just typing confidential at the top of a piece of paper doesn’t make anything confidential. It can still be defamatory as this letter clearly was.

One interesting piece of information was that the OCA consulted a lawyer to see if the CCA did indeed have the power to push the OCA into the member not in good standing status. Apparently there are no rules or standards for what determines if a member association can be put into this position, which of course makes it tough to know how you stay out of it.

The floor was then opened up for questions and comments they came fast and furious.

Many had to do with issues of the sanctions placed on the OCA by the CCA. Others were about the by-laws and the governance.

A great many people spoke up about the lack of communication from the board.

One speaker, Rod Bemister, presented a petition against the OCA board that was signed by more than 750 people.

Another questioner wanted to know how much money has the OCA spent on lawyers.

Another asked why Dale Curtis was removed.

George Cook, former president of The Dominion, asked if the OCA managed to re-sign the Travelers (which bought The Dominion) as a sponsor.

For those last two questions, the board decided to take a recess to figure out how to answer.

When they came back 10 minutes later, the answer on the Travelers was a vague one, that negotiations with the sponsors are continuing and they OCA was hoping to have some good news in a few months. That drew a few hearty disbelieving laughs.

Cook, an eloquent speaker and a passionate curler, also made those in attendance aware of the meeting he and seven other stakeholders had with the board in September, bringing up issues and offering to help the board. That was turned down and further, the group never received a response from the board.
Cook also asked the board if it could provide a job description for the new Executive Director and the plans to measure and assess his performance. He asked that that be made available to all curlers in Ontario.

He described himself as “a frustrated Ontario curler” and added that he had very little confidence anything would get done after this meeting, especially in regard to the new executive director’s role.
At one point, a speaker asked the question many Ontario curlers have been asking for some time: How can Ontario curlers have any faith in this board? McGillis responded by saying that was up to the curlers. For that answer, he was loudly booed.

Several times during the meeting, the OCA’s version of events was disputed by Colin Sinclair, a member at large, who had documents to disprove a number of OCA’s claims on time lines and whether or not letters had been received. Each time, he seemed able to embarrass the board with his corrections and that clearly irked them.

During one heated exchange, McGillis defended what he’d done and uttered the words “I don’t lie.” That drew loud boos and one person at the back of the room yelled out loudly “Bullshit.”

At one point in the meeting, Gark admitted that the OCA had done a poor job at communicating information and apologized. Speaker after speaker gave examples on the poor dissemination of information, which incredulously seemed to shock a few of the board members. At one point board member Joan O’Leary said: “Are we not communicating?” as if this was a revelation to her. Laugher followed.

Gark said the board had discussed hiring a co-op student to help with the communication, which drew another loud laugh.

But the hottest part of the afternoon came when discussing the expulsion of Curtis from her position as vice-president. At first, it appeared the board had done so because she exercised her right to call a Special General Meeting. But then O’Leary gave more details. She said Curtis hadn’t been a co-operative board member for some time, that she had disagreed with a lot of positions taken and then accused Curtis of leaking confidential information to “blogs and media.”

It was pretty clear she was speaking of this blog and so I gave O’Leary a bit of information: Curtis has never communicated with me in any way nor sent me anything. However, I did reveal that at least four other board members have, which seemed to shock a few of those at the front table.

Curtis was allowed to speak and she said the same thing and even asked me point blank if she’d ever sent me an email. I happily answered no. 

O’Leary tried to use a document that had been presented by Colin Sinclair (Curtis’s partner) as an example, saying it could not have come from anywhere else. Sinclair asked O’Leary if she had proof that he got it from Curtis to which she sheepishly had no answer. Unless she had that proof, it would be pretty hard to say it had come from Curtis since the document was in the hands of at least a dozen people, each one of whom could have passed it on. 

Clearly, the other board members railroaded Curtis using some pretty weak evidence and the people in attendance were obviously upset at this, voicing their dissatisfaction. In my opinion, this move by the board was truly disgusting. 

Following this, a speaker from the floor asked if it was possible to have a vote to re-instate Curtis to her position. It was determined that the agenda could only be changed by a two-thirds vote. In other words, there was a vote to see whether they could vote.

That vote was done by ballot and it ended up 17-17 so there was no vote for Curtis but it was made an agenda item for the April 27 meeting.

There were a few more questions and comments from the floor and some pushing the board to seek outside help, but it seemed the energy was running out of the room and eventually the meeting was adjourned.

I’m not really sure what was accomplished at this meeting other than allowing curlers to speak their minds and to let the board know how they are feeling.

Board member Linda Lott said that the board would come to the April 27 meeting with at least the framework of the next steps. I think more will happen at that meeting which has a broader agenda, which includes a vote of confidence in the board.

At times, I had a little sympathy for the board members; Gark at one point described that past few months as “a living hell.” They certainly took a beating for about three hours.

However, I couldn’t help but think that all of this was avoidable had the OCA issued an immediate apology after the original email that caused the issues. Or if they'd been smart enough not to put defamatory statements down on paper. How that simple email was allowed to escalate to the point where the OCA was on the brink of being suspended is mind-boggling.

And that seems to be a problem. These folks seem to have a great knack for pouring gas on the fire. A match turns into a brushfire because they simply can't help themselves. 

Either they truly don’t understand what is going on or they choose to ignore it.

One way or another, I don’t think they’ll be allowed to do that much longer.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Korean coach accused of abuse

Some disturbing news coming out of South Korea where the national assistant coach has offered to resign amid accusations that he verbally abused the women's team.

South Korea's national curling assistant coach Choi Min-suk has offered to resign over allegations he verbally abused members of the women's Olympic team. 
This comes after the five curlers who represented South Korea at 2014 Olympics - Kim Ji-sun, Gim Un-chi, Shin Mi-sung, Um Min-ji and Lee Seul-bee - threatened to leave their semi-professional club at the Gyeonggi Provincial Government in protest over alleged abuse by head coach Chung Young-sup and assistant Choi.

In another story, the women have already quite, four over the abuse and one who left the team to care for her family.

Four members of the women’s national curling team have resigned, claiming their coaches had verbally and sexually abused them. 

So what exactly are the charges? They don't seem overly harsh but then again, I'm not South Korean and this could easily be a cultural thing.

According to the officials, Choi was giving a pep talk before the final at the World University Games in Trentino last December when he yelled, "you should all be serious about this or you might as well all quit." 
Choi also admitted to telling the curlers, "Do you like that I am holding your hand?" before insisting that he did not mean to sexually harass the athletes but offered to apologise if it was construed that way. 

There was also talk that the team was asked to donate some of the prize money they won from the Olympics and World Championships.

Another aspect of the complaint concerned prize money, with Choi insisting they had been asked to donate a proportion of the money earned at the Olympics and World Championships to help buy equipment for curling teams at middle and high schools. 

Two of the curlers opposed the idea, and they told officials the coach had scolded them for being selfish 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Hardly any distractions at all for Team Koe

Aside from the fact that he's playing in a city where the smog is as thick as pea soup, English isn't spoken and where one of the favourite dishes is Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts, there won't be any distractions at all for Kevin Koe as he tries to win the World Curling Championship for Canada. 

Oh, and there is that small detail about his team breaking up at the end of this season. 

But Koe is hoping to focus on the ice for the next week, as he told the Canadian Press's Greg Strong:

There have been a few challenges for Koe in the leadup to the competition, which opens Saturday at Beijing’s Capital Indoor Stadium. Chief among them is news that there are changes coming to his rink next season. 
Koe preferred to keep his focus on the world championship and declined to comment on the coming changes.

Of course the CCA coaching staff knows that the Canadian skip will be able to do just that as their double secret testing and analysis shows them so:

The timing is less than ideal for Koe and his teammates. Gerry Peckham, the Canadian Curling Association’s high-performance director, expects Koe to be able to lock in on the immediate task before him. 
“Our analysis of his performance skills and performance attributes would suggest that he’s an incredibly focused individual and is seldom distracted by anything external to the game at hand,” Peckham said. “I think those teammates have looked in each other in the eye again, squared their shoulders, are shaking each other’s hands and are now moving on to complete this journey of a world championship.”

Thursday, March 27, 2014

More from Martin on team changes and timing

Kevin Martin spoke to the Canadian Press in a story that appeared in various publications this morning, talking about his future and the timing of the recent flurry of team changes. He was disappointed that word has leaked out with a few big events left on the calendar.

"Having teams change and personnel change, that's just part of sport," he said. "That's not unusual I don't think.
"It's just unfortunate that any of these changes - and there are a lot of changes that are going to happen this year - happen before the end of the (season). That should definitely happen in May."

As for his own future, it appears the gold medallist is unsure except that he'll need a new team if and when he decides to head back to the ice. 

"I can't confirm that I'm looking for a new roster," Martin told The Canadian Press on Wednesday from Napa Valley, Calif."But I can confirm that Marc and Ben are going to curl with Kev, yeah. I haven't decided if I'm going to curl again at all."

Note that he was in Napa, Calif. Even if Marc and Benny have left him, I'm not feeling sorry for K-Mart. Not one bit. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Time for Ontario curlers to get answers and have their say

This Sunday at noon at Annandale G&CC in Ajax (here's a map), will be the first chance the curlers of Ontario to hear – and hopefully ask questions –  of the board of the Ontario Curling Association.

 After lots of nonsense, written confrontations, delays (many possibly as part of a strategy), obfuscation, sanctions, non-communication and what seems as general rudeness, the OCA board, headed by president Ian McGillis, will finally gather in front of voting members comprised of zone reps and members at large.

 According to a newsletter sent out last week by the OCA, any curler in Ontario is allowed to attend although they won’t have a vote.

That means if you feel strongly about what has happened to curling in this province over the past few months, you should be there.

 If you think curling in Ontario needs better representation, then you should be there.

 If you think it’s wrong that the current board hasn’t answered any questions or explained why the association was put under sanction, you should be there.

 If you think it’s strange that the statement put up on the OCA web site “explaining” the entire situation was quickly refuted by the CCA, then you should be there.

 If you think the OCA board has thumbed its nose at the association constitution, then you should be there.

 If you think it’s abhorrent that it’s used technicalities in order to avoid calling a general meeting when asked to do so by a large number of voting members, you should be there.

 If you think it’s wrong that it hasn’t responded to the call by a sitting vice-president to call a special general meeting, you should be there.

The only way to put an end to all the problems that exist is to show up, hear what this board has to say and then decide for yourself if it’s right or wrong.

 If no one shows up then these folks will assume curlers just don’t care. Show them you care about curling in Ontario.

Come to this meeting and see if there are finally answers.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Homan upset in gold medal game

Last night’s final of the women’s World Curling Championship was a stunning upset of Canada’s Rachel Homan. The Ottawa rink that appeared so dominant all week and had command of the game through seven ends, clearly didn’t have their best stuff and at times seemed to be confused either by the rocks or the ice or perhaps both.

The Swiss team, which was better but not necessary stellar by any means, was deserving of the win.
But for Canadian fans the question is how did the Homan team let that game slip away? Consecutive three-enders late in the game is just not something that team gives up. But it did with some sloppy shot-making.

Somehow I think this is one they’ll need some time to forget.

In the Ottawa Citizen, Gord Holder pointed out the shock of the loss for the Canadian team.

The four young women from the Ottawa Curling Club had hoped, had expected to continue celebrating a world curling championship, but those hopes and dreams were dashed by Binia Feltscher’s plucky Swiss team, which upset the heavily favoured Canadians 9-5 in the gold-medal game at Harbour Station arena. 
So, instead of a first women’s world title for an Ottawa foursome and the first for any Canadian team since 2008, Homan and her teammates were left to ponder wha tmight have been and to seek a silver lining in a one-step upgrade from the world bronze medals they earned last year in Latvia.

The Canadian Press story that appeared on mentioned the horrid third end which essentially buried the Canadians.

Canada led 5-3 after seven ends, but a devastatingeighth cost Homan. The Swiss scored three points on Canadian mistakes and Homan couldn't recover. 
More errors in the ninth forced Homan into a low percentage angle raise double takeout with her final throw. The Canadian skip missed and gave up a steal of three at Harbour Station. 
It was a deflating end for Homan, third EmmaMiskew, second Alison Kreviazuk and lead Lisa Weagle because their record was11-1 going into the final. 
We're obviously disappointed, but we stillwon a silver medal," Homan said. "The crowd did an unbelievable job today. We'll be back for more."

In the Sun papers, freelancing Mike Haggerty put it bluntly

Rachel Homan couldn’t hang on when it mattered most. 
The Canadian skip led 5-3 after seven ends, but her team let a gold medal slip away in the final of the Ford World Women’s Curling Championship in front of a near-capacity crowd at Harbour Station on Sunday night. 
Switzerland’s Binia Feltscher, who said on Saturday she’d be happy with a silver medal, rallied for a 9-5 win, stunning the favoured Ottawa rink

Here are the highlights if you missed the game.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Free Press: Stoughton team calls it quits

Another domino has fallen.

According to some Tweets from Paul Wiecek of the Winnipeg Free Press, Jeff Stoughton’s team will curl its final two cash events and then disband. Third Jon Mead is apparently unsure about his curling future while second/lead Mark Nichols is moving back to Newfoundland and Labrador. No word on Reid Carruthers. 

While this move was expected, it’s still a bit of a shock to hear it come to reality. Stoughton’s team has been one of the best over the last four-year cycle but it wasn’t able to get that prized Olympic berth.

Earlier this year, the skip told me that he would not go through another four-year Olympic cycle but that the possibility of curling another year or maybe even coming in at the end of the next Olympic run – a la Russ Howard – was a possibility.

With this move, the Big Four teams from the last half decade or so -- Stoughton, Kevin Koe, Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin -- have now all made changes. Earlier this week, it was reported that Howard second Brent Laing was moving to Alberta to play with Koe, that Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert would switch from Martin to Koe, and now the Stoughton team has wound up things.