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Discussion: US National Team ESC Elections

in: Orienteering; General

Sep 9, 2016 12:43 AM # 
OUSA is seeking motivated individuals to serve on the executive steering committee (ESC) of the Senior Team. The ESC works to promote elite orienteering in the US and to help our athletes develop in this sport. No background as an elite orienteer is required to join the ESC.

When asked about the role of the ESC, senior team member Ross Smith said, 'This year at WOC, like always, I was able to focus on my races because the ESC does such a great job with all of the logistics. Linda sends us many emails to keep us informed throughout the year, we each have ESC members that review our training and provide feedback, and our race entry and accommodation is arranged for us. Plus, we were provided with an amazing Team Leader, Cristina Luis, to take care of all the details during the championships.'

If you would like to know more about the ESC and get involved, please contact the ESC (usotesconly at yahoogroups dot com). The Team will have a meeting open to all interested parties at NAOC, Saturday 9/24 (time and place TBA), where, among other business, people will be elected to the ESC.
Sep 20, 2016 5:23 PM # 
Just a reminder that there will be elections for 4 open ESC positions at the team meeting this Saturday at NAOC. There is more to the job than making travel arrangements and "promoting orienteering." The ESC has a tremendous amount of control over the makeup and selection of the national teams, as well as defining the team(s) selection criteria, among other things. Specifically:

--- The ESC members name, and sometimes serve on, the committee that selects the Sr. Standing Team (i.e. "the US Orienteering Team")

--- The ESC decides on the selection criteria for the WOC team each year (and WUOC team every other year).

--- The ESC members name, and sometimes serve on, the Review Panel that considers petitions to be inserted onto the WOC team each year (and WUOC team every other year).

--- The ESC controls the team's budget and spending, including making grants to individual athletes.

The make-up of the current ESC can be found on the OUSA team web pages here:

U.S. Senior Team ESC members and terms
Linda Kohn, 2008-2016, Chair 2008–present *
Pete Bundschuh, 2010–2016 *
Giacomo Barbone, 2014–2016 *
Peggy Dickison, 2011–2017
Clem McGrath, 2013–2017
Samantha Saeger, 2011–2017
Cristina Luis, 2012–2016 *

Team Administrator:
Lex Bundschuh, 2009–2015
Ex-Officio member(s):
Erin Schirm, 2014–

Terms for Linda, Pete, Giacomo and Cristina are open for election. Linda has been the chair for 4 consecutive 2-year terms. Given that long period of time and events that took place over the past year, I personally believe that its time for a change in the leadership of the ESC.

Also note that several of the current ESC members are themselves members of the Standing Team, WOC Team and WUOC Teams. Given that it is primarily the Standing Team members who elect the ESC, and given the power that the ESC has to set selection criteria and make subjective appointments to the teams and award grants, I think it is a serious conflict of interest for these athletes to serve on the ESC. Cristina, Giacomo and Samantha are all currently members of the Standing Team.

Last weekend at the AGM, three other Standing Team members (Boris, Alex and Ian) were elected to the OUSA Board of Directors, the governing body which has control over the federation's Rules of Competition (including rules related to team selection). This puts 6 current Standing Team members and potential WOC team candidates in voting positions on these governing bodies (1/4 of the entire team).

It would behoove OUSA to have fewer (or no) team members serving in these positions which present the potential for influence that is to their own personal benefit. If you feel you might be able to help out and serve on the ESC, please contact the ESC at the address Linda posted above, and/or show up at the team meeting this Saturday.

As I understand it, any interested party can show up at the team meeting and vote in the ESC elections (including non-team members) - at least that's the way it has been done in the past. It would be nice to see the voting done via paper ballot rather than a show of hands in order to reduce the potential for peer influence in the results (i.e. current and future team members are voting for or against persons who might be in a position to name or not name them to a national team spot). Printed ballots and a shoebox should suffice. I would encourage as many OUSA members as possible go to the team meeting this Saturday, both to vote for the ESC and to hear what the team is doing and show your support for them.
Sep 20, 2016 5:27 PM # 
How can I vote from afar? I'd love to have a voice
Sep 20, 2016 8:36 PM # 
Elite athletes (past and present) often have great experience orienteering around the world, personal connection to the sport and passion for its development. Elite athletes often contribute to club programs in huge ways, whether coaching younger athletes or organizing events for the membership at large. That you have elite athletes interested and willing to be involved in the sport's leadership structure is something that you should be thankful for.
Sep 21, 2016 4:55 PM # 
bmay +100
Sep 21, 2016 5:52 PM # 
I am thankful for that, however none of that precludes conflicts of interest.
Sep 22, 2016 5:10 AM # 
In my opinion, it seems that there would be very little conflict of interest with standing team members serving on the Board of OUSA as issues relating directly to the US Team selection are but a small part of the Board's activities. Having team members on the Board would seem like a great benefit to the Team as those individuals would presumably be good advocates for elite orienteering in general.

The ESC, on the other hand, is a bit of a different animal and I'm a bit surprised that there are already Team members on the ESC. That said, there are probably many discussions where having input on athlete's views is really helpful. I would hope that the ESC would have procedures in place so that team members would recuse themselves from discussions on certain topics that could yield conflict of interest issues.
Sep 22, 2016 12:19 PM # 
I suspect the more important conflict of interest issue will not be the team member / ESC / Board triangle but the one set up by an IRS regulation for non-profit organizations. As I read (past tense) it that regulation seemed to prohibit any Board payments to board members for any project except possibly for immediate board epenses such as meals, mileage, etc when on Board business. I think it is meant to cover conflicts suh as a Baord member selling legal service to the non-profit entity or the Board hiring a fellow member to do construction renovations to the HQ and the like. Those are big concerns However it would also seem to catch and prohibit little concerns such as the possibility of the Board hiring a member to do mapping or making a payment to a board member on a national team.
Sep 22, 2016 3:05 PM # 
Some good ideas about conflict of interest (and "benefit from interest") here. We need to document potential conflicts of interest, and handle them appropriately, but excluding people from the board because they may have a conflict of interest in some of the matters that the board handles would probably exclude nearly everyone involved in orienteering. It is possible to have someone on the board who gets paid by the organization for some work, if handled appropriately.

"So long as the potential conflict of interest is handled properly, material facts are disclosed, the transaction is fair to organization, the transaction is in the best interest of organization, compensation is reasonable, and the decision is documented, this arrangement may be acceptable. It may be a wonderful opportunity for the nonprofit." (ref)
Sep 22, 2016 7:51 PM # 
The ESC, on the other hand, is a bit of a different animal and I'm a bit surprised that there are already Team members on the ESC.

Agree that that is surprising, and while it may not be an actualized conflict of interest in fact, it is easy to see how the optics would be awkward, to put it mildly. "Yeah, we'll recuse ourselves on team matters". If so, what is the point? (and if not, well then it would seem to be a conflict of interest in fact, at least to the fan and donor).

So, it would seem a prospective compromise here is greybeards who used to be on the team. They have elite experience and know what it is to train for, make, and compete for the team, as well as, presumably, accumulated wisdom. And. presumably, no awkward conflict of interest optics. Hopefully, suitable candidates will step forward.

Finally, there should be a notion of term limits for all related positions, especially when there has been more discontent than usual. Sometimes a fresh perspective is valuable and constructive. (And yes, I served a couple of terms on the ESC myself, and declined a request to serve further, in a time of much less discontent).

Just my 2c, FWIW
Sep 22, 2016 8:03 PM # 
A team's steering committee's business includes not only selection of the team, but also fundraising, service projects, training camps, coach selection, goal setting, communications to many different parties, and more. I think you want the athletes to be part of those decisions. I have advocated in the past for putting the junior team captains on JTESC (which has the added benefit of pulling young people into committee work). Conflicts of interest should be declared and deliberations should be open, and people should recuse themselves for the most egregious situations, but generally excluding everyone who might have a conflict of interest with a portion of the committee's business also excludes most interested parties. Fun fact: the OUSA bylaws include a requirement that a fraction of the board be actively competing orienteers.
Sep 23, 2016 6:57 PM # 
The fun fact that Barb is referring to was also mentioned by Alex on Clubnet in a parallel discussion that is occurring there. Here is the exact wording from the bylaws:

3. The Board shall at all times include among its voting members individuals who are actively engaged in athletic competition in orienteering or who have represented the United States in international competition within the preceding ten (10) years. Membership and voting power held by such individuals shall not be less than 20% of such membership and voting power held in the Board.

I've looked back at the post-AGM board meeting minutes to see who the board members were going back to at least 2000, and as far as I can tell most if not all of the members of every Board has met the criteria of being actively engaged in athletic competition in orienteering. There is no definition given of what constitutes actively competing, or what representation on the international level means, but I don't think any part of this is intended to guarantee Standing Team members (or WOC, WUOC, JWOC, WTOC members, etc) spots on the board. Nor does it deny them that right, and I don't think anyone here has implied that they can't serve. The General Assembly elected three of them to the Board last week. It looks like the last team member to sit on the Board was Cristina back in 2009 and there haven't been any in the intervening 6 years, but I may have missed someone. Of course you can't force anyone to serve on the Board or ESC. Incidentally 2009 is when the ED was hired, and also when the requirement that Board members be regional representatives was dropped (see the 2009 AGM minutes). All BOD members have been "at-large" since then.

I find it disappointing that instead of directly addressing the clear conflicts of interest that exist on the ESC, and the potential (but not as-yet realized) conflicts that could exist on the Board if it takes up any changes to the Rules of Competition governing team selections, that some of the new Board members are simply defending their standing to hold the office regardless of whether there are conflicts or not. OUSA has an official Conflict of Interest policy, and even as sparse as it is in detail, I expect the Board and ESC and teams to stand behind it to the fullest extent possible.

I did suggest a possible change to the Board's rules change/waiver process in the thread on the President's race here that would go a long way towards easing concerns about these conflicts. It would also fit in nicely with what some of the Board members are saying publicly about transparency and better communication within the organization and community as a whole. That is, I hope those things don't apply exclusively to finances and operations.

On Sept 14th, Linda forwarded a memo from Tom Hollowell (IOF Secretary General) to both team lists and the ESC regarding the newly approved IOF Code of Ethics. The cover letter and the text of the code, which was approved at the IOF General Assembly on Aug 26, are interesting reading. I've posted both of them here:


I've long felt that OUSA needs its own Code of Ethics, both because of these conflict of interest issues and because of the grievance policy that appears annually at the end of the ESC's WOC team selection criteria (e.g. 2016) which is virtually un-executable without a code of ethics to act against. The word "ethics" doesn't appear anywhere in either the federation's Bylaws or the Rules of Competition.
Sep 24, 2016 4:40 AM # 
Details about the team meeting today (as best I can gather). The meeting is open to all interested parties:

The Annual Team Meeting is Sat. 9/24, 4:30 PM in Robinson Hall, rm. 15. Please follow the parking and walking directions for the dinner (so that you don't violate the embargo). Robinson is the building on the W side of the Green, 2nd building from the corner of Wheelock and N. Main St. Go downstairs and you'll see rooms 14-15. Please try to be on time. GPS coordinates: 43.703126, -72.289801

According to Linda, SKYPE will be available. Let her know if you want to be included in the call. If you are not one of Linda's contacts you will need to let her know as soon as possible before the meeting. Her skype ID is lindakohn2.

> The Agenda for the meeting is:
> WOC and WUOC reports
> Financial report
> Training and Team report
> ESC elections
> Discussion about moving forward

As of Friday morning, Linda reports that no new nominations have been made for the open ESC spots. It appears that both Linda and Giacomo are willing to serve again, Pete's status is unknown and Cristina does not intend to continue for another term. Nominations can be made from the floor at the meeting, but ahead of time is better.
Sep 24, 2016 10:19 PM # 
Those are big concerns

Not really, not anymore
Sep 26, 2016 5:21 PM # 
Results from the ESC election: Both Linda and Giacomo were elected for 2 additional years. Since there are still openings on the committee, we will continue to search for and accept nominations to fill the openings. Current team members will vote to accept or reject any future nominations.

This discussion thread is closed.