Monday, April 28, 2014

The Second Special General Meeting

So by most accounts, Sunday’s OCA special general meeting turned out to be a positive affair. After months and months of nasty, dirty, down-in-the-ditch attacks and lies and innuendo, the board came to the table with something that Ontario curlers could feel good about.

It wasn’t perfect. And there’s a lot that needs to happen to reassure the curlers from Windsor to Ottawa, but for the first time in oh, about six months, there actually seems to be progress.

The meeting was long, slipping past four hours in length. At times there was good-natured laughter and other times, some heated finger-pointing.

To me one of the biggest things that happened during the afternoon was that the OCA board actually took a step back, acknowledged its errors on a few issues and accepted that it needs to change. Up to this point, my sense was that it didn’t think it was at fault for any of the troubles and that it viewed this entire uprising as merely a few malcontents speaking out.

I still don’t have total faith in the current board members; I will need to see some of the promises made yesterday come to fruition before that will happen.

So here’s what did happen. The meeting got underway with Gord Gark announcing that president Ian McGillis had taken a leave of absence from the board for personal reasons. The board had voted to have Gark handle the president’s duties and so he was at the helm for the meeting.

The first step for the board was to get the minutes of the last meeting passed, which it did after several revisions, and then to change the agenda. It wanted to be able to present its story first, presumably to show the assembled group (which I would estimate was larger than the one at Annandale a month earlier) what it was doing.

Several board members made presentations and it was announced that a number of new committees had been formed (although I was surprised there was no communications committee). All good stuff.
Then the new Executive Director was introduced and he spoke. I didn’t know Steve Chenier prior to this meeting but he spoke well and clearly has his finger on the situation. He seems to have figured out the shortcomings of his predecessor and has taken the bull by the horns.

He said that he has instituted a policy that all communication received at the OCA office will get a response within 24 hours. It doesn’t mean the problem will be solved or an answer provided but at the very least an acknowledgement made that the message has been received.

He also announced that there would be a bi-weekly newsletter coming out during the curling season, and that his staff was already undertaking a review of companies to update the web site, and that there will be a component of that where scores of competitions will be updated promptly.

He also announced that Travelers (aka Dominion) would not return as a sponsor for any OCA events outside the Trillium Camp and the Dominion Club Championship. He said the loss was caused by bad communication and it wouldn’t happen again under his watch.

(That leaves the Ontario men’s championship without a sponsor, by the way, a massive hole).

When he stepped down, I think a lot of people felt very reassured that he has energy and passion for his new job.

Following Chenier, there were more presentations by board members. It was learned that the board is planning on a new set of bylaws for the OCA, which it hopes to have ready for the 2015 AGM.

Next up was Hugh Avery, the chair of the CCA board of governors. He spoke about the Member Not In Good Standing ruling of last fall and said it was really the result of some things that were said that were not true, as simple as that. He also apologized for the black mark that the situation left on the game, and that some member associations wanted the CCA to go farther than it did in responding.

Then, in a very interesting moment, he said he wanted to make it clear that the CCA had never received any correspondence or had any contact with Dale Curtis, the ousted VP of the OCA. That comment certainly took the knees out from the OCA board’s allegations of what Curtis had done.

He also said that there were personality conflicts and friction between certain people on the OCA and the CCA. Although he didn’t mention it, that was likely Doug Bakes the former ED of the OCA.

Had Avery stopped at that point, I think he might have been the hit of the afternoon, but he kept talking and babbling on about sitting down in the future at a barbeque with Gord Gark and getting to know him and all sorts of stuff that sounded a bit patronizing. It wasn’t necessary and it made him look silly.
It was good to hear from the CCA on the issues. I still think the national body got off with a free pass in all of this and that they weren’t exactly squeaky clean. However, I digress.

After some discussion about how best to assemble the next board, and the promise that there would be open nominations rather than the vote-yourself-in process currently used, Gark announced that on the day prior, the board had voted to re-instate Bill Rourke who’d been essentially punted from his position as a member at large at the last annual meeting. Rourke had accepted and is back on the team.

After a break there were two more votes.

The first was to re-instate Dale Curtis to her position as first vice-president. I thought this one might be a slam-dunk, especially since it became clear that all the reasons the board gave for kicking her out were unfounded. But after the secret ballot, the vote was 22-11 in favour. I can only assume that the board voted in solidarity and made up most of those 11 votes, which if true, is pretty sad.

After the votes were read, Gark welcomed Curtis back on the board. Perhaps nothing shocked me more about the entire afternoon – and maybe it was just a slip – but there was no apology offered to Curtis for essentially railroading her out of her position. I mean, the board essentially made wild accusations about her, some of which I would say were defamatory, which it could not back up and they said nothing about it. That’s unacceptable in my view and to me shows the pettiness of the folks who were sitting at the head table. 

The next item was supposed to be a vote of non-confidence in the president but it was removed since McGillis was not there and therefore unable to speak to the motion.

It was followed by the final item – the motion of non-confidence in the board. There was lots of back and forth on this. Speaker after speaker rose with points on both sides. There was clarification given on what happened if the board was removed but in the end, the vote came in 31-3 against removing the board.

And with that, the meeting ended. Now the OCA has to get to work. It will need to show curlers that it can look to the future and get the association working again, living up to all the promises it made Sunday afternoon. There are certainly enough issues on the table that need to be dealt with and I think many curlers still doubt whether the current board can handle them.

Certainly some of this board will be out at the annual general meeting in June and I’m sure a few are happy about that. New blood is clearly needed. 

The next few months should be calmer, but assuredly no less interesting.

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