SAM SLOAN SENDS PETITION TO RECALL FOUR EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBERS
In recent days, USCF Delegates and Alternate Delegates have been receiving the following mailing sent by Sam Sloan of New York calling for the recall of four members of the Executive Board: Tim Redman, Jim Pechac, Doris Barry, and Helen Warren. If Mr. Sloan obtains 75 signatures for the recall of a Board member, USCF bylaws require a recall election to be held, with a two-thirds vote of the Delegates and Alternates required for removal.
The USCF Bylaws do not specify what the grounds for a recall must be- it's whatever the voter thinks is a sufficient reason. No "high crimes and misdemeanors" are needed here.
Sam Sloan is a veteran tournament player who has attended many FIDE meetings and major world chess events. He has run for the USCF Executive Board (formerly Policy Board) three times, with little success. Most recently, in 1999 he placed last out of 16 candidates on the ballot.
Petition to Recall Members of the Executive Board of the United States Chess Federation
The United States Chess Federation is now in crisis. Everybody agrees on that, although there is disagreement as to the causes and solutions.
The current Executive Board majority, which just took power in August, is unresponsive to the wishes of the membership. The current Executive Board majority has effectively destroyed the established rating system by instituting a "fiddle points" system where every player will be awarded two points for every game played, up to a limit of 2000 points. They say that they have done this to increase chess activity. However, most players compete in tournaments not to win prizes but to gain rating points by defeating opponents and have no interest in a rating system based upon the number of games they play. The rating system is the most valuable asset that the USCF has and the introduction of fiddle points will effectively destroy it.
But that is only the beginning. The new board majority has not issued any financial reports. The most recent balance sheet for the USCF is dated May, 1999. The USCF Annual report for the year 2000 was supposed to have been issued in August 2000 at the time of the US Open. It has not been issued yet. Financial statements are supposed to be available on the USCF website. Yet, if you try to get the financial statements supposedly on the web site, it says: "The page cannot be found".
In a recent newsgroup posting, Tim Redman, USCF President, stated: "Consolidated statements were far from being my top priority". If the current Executive Board majority is thrown out, perhaps we can get somebody in there who does consider financial statements to be a top priority.
This is not because of a lack of resources. The USCF hired a Chief Financial Officer last year, Jeffrey Loomis, a position which did not previously exist. The USCF supposedly has more accounting and bookkeeping personnel than ever before.
The reason no financial statements are available is that Jim Pechac, the elected Vice-President of Finance, has blocked the issuance of financial reports. This situation does not seem likely to change as long as the current Executive Board majority remains in office. By now, the financial reports for the year 2001 should be in preparation. Yet, the reports for fiscal 2000 are not out yet.
But there is more: The USCF introduced its highly touted US CHESSLIVE system for Internet online play. The group that provides this free service to members was brought in by Doris Barry. However, observant subscribers quickly realized that the US CHESSLIVE software is infected with spyware. It installs spyware into your system, enabling the operators to read your entire hard drive, including your credit card numbers, your bank account passwords and the like.
A big ruckus was made over this, so the company withdrew that version and issued a new version of US ChessLive. The new version does not contain that brand of spyware: It contains a different less obvious brand of spyware instead! They claim that it is not spyware, because it is fully disclosed in the agreement that everyone must make when they download the software, an agreement which almost nobody reads.
Meanwhile, anybody who downloaded the first version of US Chess Live is still having their hard drive read by that company. Once the spyware is installed, there is really no way to be sure of removing it, except either to buy a new computer or reformat the infected hard drive.
The current Executive Majority knows about all these problems, but they don't care. They have the arrogance of power. They have no care or concern for what their members think.
There is much more: Several members of the Executive Board are known to want to close down the books and equipment business and to close down USCF correspondence chess. They have already reduced School Mates magazine to just four issues per year and they have greatly reduced the size of Chess Life magazine. Several senior USCF staff members have been summarily fired, including Barbara DeMaro, whose firing became the subject of a column in the Boston Globe. At least that brought publicity for chess. In addition, Glenn Petersen was removed as Chess Life editor.
It goes on and on. And remember, all this has happened in the few months since August when the current executive board majority took power, except that the problem of No Financial Reports dates back to August 1999, when Jim Pechac became Vice President for Finance.
There are many more problems. The Tournament Life Announcements section of Chess Life is down to ten pages in the current issue, half of which is devoted to Grand Prix events, as opposed to sixteen previously. The price to organizers for putting TLAs in the magazine has quadrupled. It is surprising that half of the current TLA section is devoted to Grand Prix events, because the USCF funding for the Grand Prix program has been abolished, a program which benefits all but the smallest organizers, as it brings grandmasters to tournaments where they would otherwise not play. Yet, the current Executive Board majority claims that they voted in favor of fiddle points, or "activity points" as they prefer to call them, to increase chess activity.
While almost everybody is unhappy about this, there are those who say that we should wait until August when a new election will take place and a new board will presumably take power. However, I for one feel that we cannot wait. If we wait, by the time of the election, there will be no more USCF to fight over. By the time of the next election, the financial statements for fiscal 2001 are supposed to be out. However, since financial statements for 2000 are not out yet, it can be just about guaranteed that there will be no meaningful financial information by the time of the next election, or for at least as long as Jim Pechac remains in office.
The presence of spyware in US ChessLive creates a potential financial liability of millions of dollars if and when the general membership finds out about this and decides to bring suit. Ironically, the cover of the January/February Chess Life says: "see what all the fuss is about - us chesslive". It fails to mention that the fuss is about the spyware that US ChessLive contains.
In 1995, the Delegates passed a new rating system which addresses the concerns about ratings deflation. It is known as the Glickman System. Glickman is a Professor of Math and Statistics at Boston University who wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the USCF rating system. However, the USCF office staff never implemented the Glickman system. Finally, the October issue of Chess Life announced that the Glickman System was being put into effect. Almost simultaneously, on October 6, 2000, Tim Redman, in one of the most arrogant acts imaginable, got the board effectively to throw out the Glickman system in favor of his own fiddle points plan.
Players are upset that they do not know which rating system is in effect and they cannot calculate or estimate their new ratings. Most of the complaints about the previously established rating system come from the scholastic community, who said that their players were underrated. The fiddle points system will have a devastating impact on scholastic chess because, for example, any kid who lives in New York City where the Manhattan and Marshall Chess Clubs hold Swiss system tournaments every day can quickly play a few hundred rated games and thereby qualify to represent the United States in an international youth event, whereas players who live in remote areas will not have an equal opportunity. The current top-50 lists for various age categories will become meaningless. Small groups will form of players who only play each other and nobody else, thereby insuring much higher ratings for every member of the group.
In the history of the USCF, there has never been a recall of elected officials, in part because the recall provision was first put in the by-laws in 1998. I believe that the only solution is to recall the four members of the Executive Board who are causing all these problems, namely: Tim Redman, Helen Warren, Doris Barry and Jim Pechac. They all have different backgrounds and are not in agreement in all issues, but they have formed an alliance and a bloc which now controls the USCF.
In each case, there is a specific reason which pertains primarily to one Executive Board member. For example, the problem of no financial reports is clearly caused by Jim Pechac. Tim Redman, the new president, has expressed little interest in the numbers aspect of the USCF. The problem of spyware in US ChessLive must be laid at the door of Doris Barry, because she is the person who brought in the US ChessLive group. The problem of the fiddle points has been caused by Tim Redman, because this was his brainchild. Helen Warren is the main proponent of a proposal to close down the books business and to stop USCF correspondence chess. She tried to stop a US Team from being sent to the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul and she voted against allowing George DeFeis to negotiate with the Seirawan group to hold the US Championship in Seattle. These four Executive Board members vote for each other's plans and secure their passage.
Under the USCF by-laws, in order for there to be a recall, first 75 voting members must sign the recall petition. I am confident that I can get 75 signatures, but I need your help. I could also use a little money. After that, the member who is the subject of the Recall Petition has 30 days to communicate his or her views to the voters, and then there is an election.
The recall provision states:
Section 10. Removal and Recall. Members of the Executive Board are subject to removal through recall by Petition for Recall.
Petition for Recall. A Petition for Recall bearing the signatures of at least seventy five of the electors may be filed with the USCF Secretary, except that a Petition to Recall the USCF Secretary shall be filed with the USCF President. Upon certification of the petition, timely notice of the recall shall be provided to the Electors by mail and the Executive Board Member who is subject to recall shall have no less than thirty days to communicate his/her views to the Electors. At the end of that period a recall ballot shall be mailed to the Electors providing for its return within 21 days to the Business Office. At the end of that period the ballots shall be opened and tabulated in the presence of three tellers, one appointed by the Executive Board member who is subject to recall, one appointed by the first available signer of a recall question, and one appointed by the other two tellers. If at least 250 ballots are received and at least 2/3 of those voting support recall, the Executive Board Member is recalled.
I am sending you a separate recall petition for each of the four members of the Executive Board who I feel that should be recalled. I am doing it this way because some, for example, may favor keeping Helen Warren while wanting Tim Redman to be recalled. Also, if you want any of the remaining three members of the Executive Board recalled, just draw up your own petition. If I get 75 signatures to have any of them recalled, I will submit those as well, in the interest of being even-handed to all sides.
I want to explain that I have nothing personally against any of the four Executive Board members whom I want recalled. I personally posted the campaign letters of Tim Redman on the chess newsgroups at his request, because he did not know how to do it himself. I campaigned for Jim Pechac and often said that I thought he would make an excellent Executive Board member. I used to exchange friendly correspondence with Helen Warren, until I expressed opposition to some of her policies and she cut off the correspondence and blocked me from sending her e-mail. I also had positive feelings about Doris Barry and I thought that she was a nice old lady who knew a lot about chess. I thought that she was going to make an excellent board member.
Several people have expressed the view that the recall petition will be unsuccessful and will only strengthen their position. My response to this is that at least if 75 voters sign the petition, the members subject to the recall will have to hold themselves accountable. When they campaigned for election, they sent us all those finely printed letters about the great things they were going to do if elected. Needless to say, they have done none of the things that they promised to do and instead have sent the USCF off in a completely opposite direction.
If you will sign this petition, that will help guarantee that at least you will receive a letter from your elected officials explaining their actions and their conduct up until now. Then you will be able to decide whether you want to vote for or against the recall.
Signed copies of the petition should be sent to me at my address, which is as follows:
2356 Pitkin Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11207-3822
January 16, 2001
Very Truly Yours,
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Petition to Recall Tim Redman from the USCF Executive Board
I am a voting member of the United States Chess Federation and I hereby petition for a recall of Tim Redman as member of the Executive Board on the following grounds [add, cross out or change grounds as appropriate]:
Tim Redman and his political allies got elected by claiming that there was a "financial crisis in the USCF" and that the financial figures being presented to the delegates were false and misleading.
However, under Redman, the delegates have been presented with no meaningful financial figures at all! From time to time, spreadsheets are posted on the USCF web site showing specific selected financial figures. However, these figures are virtually useless when determining the overall health of the organization.
Since August, 1999, when the current Executive Board took office, there has never been a consolidated financial statement issued by the USCF. The USCF annual report was supposed to have come out in August, 2000. It has not come out yet. This is the first time in history that the USCF has not issued a timely annual report.
In October, Redman got a motion passed awarding two rating points to every rated player for every chess game played. Redman calls these "activity points", but the general membership calls them "fiddle points", because that is the name given to similar points by George Cunningham when he was USCF ratings administrator in the late 1970s.
The USCF now has 87788 members. Among those, five are in favor of fiddle points. The remaining 87783 are opposed.
Redman mislead the Executive Board when he presented his fiddle points plan at the October 6, 2000 meeting. He said: "I circulated this idea for discussion. I had a very productive and good e-mail correspondence with Professor Mark Glickman, who is the Chair of the Ratings Committee."
This clearly implied that Mark Glickman was in favor of fiddle points or at least not strongly against it. Redman also said that other members of the Rating Committee had expressed support for the idea "as individuals". This was a lie. The entire Ratings Committee was unanimously and vehemently opposed to fiddle points and Redman knew that. If he did not know it then, he certainly knows it now, and yet he has been pressing forward with his fiddle points system and insisting upon prompt implementation.
Redman also advocated removing TLAs ("tournament life announcements") from the pages of Chess Life and a drastic reduction in the size of Chess Life.
[Write in Other Grounds]
On these or other grounds, I petition for Tim Redman to be recalled.
USCF Voting Member
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Petition to Recall Jim Pechac from the USCF Executive Board
I am a voting member of the United States Chess Federation and I hereby petition for a recall of Jim Pechac as member of the Executive Board on the following grounds [add, cross out or change grounds as appropriate]:
Jim Pechac and his political allies got elected by claiming that there was a "financial crisis in the USCF" and that the financial figures being presented to the delegates were false and misleading.
However, under Pechac, the delegates have been presented with no meaningful financial figures at all! From time to time, spreadsheets are posted on the USCF web site showing specific selected financial figures. However, these figures are virtually useless when determining the overall health of the organization.
Since August, 1999, when the current Executive Board took office and Jim Pechac became Vice-President for Finance, there has never been a consolidated financial statement issued by the USCF. The USCF annual report was supposed to have come out in August, 2000. It has not come out yet. This is the first time in history that the USCF has not issued a timely annual report.
Although some financial figures are available, they are utterly without meaning without the full financial figures. For example, one spreadsheet includes the following items:
November 2000 Finance Reports (Operations)
Total revenue (Year-to-date) 2,310,050.95
Cost of Sales 598,201.89
Gross Profit 1,711,849.06
Total Expenses 1,724,067.35
Net income <12,218.29>
While these figures are mildly interesting, they are utterly meaningless without a balance sheet. The last balance sheet the USCF issued was dated May, 1999. More than one and a half years have passed with no balance sheet.
Moreover, the above figures just represent Operations. The big money, both in assets and liabilities, are in the LMA aspect of the financial statements and are completely undisclosed. For example, all dues paid by life and sustaining members goes into the LMA and does not reach operations. The LMA also owns the building. The LMA transfers money into operations from time to time. All of these financial transactions, which involve millions of dollars (assuming that the money is still there), are completely undisclosed to the voting members.
[Write in Other Grounds]
On these or other grounds, I petition for Jim Pechac to be recalled.
USCF Voting Member
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Petition to Recall Helen Warren from the USCF Executive Board
I am a voting member of the United States Chess Federation and I hereby petition for a recall of Helen Warren as member of the Executive Board on the following grounds [add, cross out or change grounds as appropriate]:
Helen Warren has taken positions which I and, I believe, the majority of USCF voting members are against:
Helen Warren is the main proponent of a proposal to close down the books and equipment business, to stop USCF correspondence chess, and to halt the Grand Prix program. She tried to stop a US Team from being sent to the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul. She voted against holding a US Championship for the year 2000 and then she voted against allowing George DeFeis to negotiate with the Seirawan group to hold the US Championship in Seattle.
She voted to establish the fiddle points rating system and she ridiculed efforts to raise funds to save the Grand Prix.
Yet, before she was elected, Helen Warren asked that the USCF donate $10,000 each year to her own private tournament which she renamed the US Masters.
[Write in Other Grounds]
On these or other grounds, I petition for Helen Warren to be recalled.
USCF Voting Member
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Petition to Recall Doris Barry from the USCF Executive Board
I am a voting member of the United States Chess Federation and I hereby petition for a recall of Doris Barry as member of the Executive Board on the following grounds [add, cross out or change grounds as appropriate]:
Doris Barry brought the US ChessLive program into the USCF. US ChessLive software is infected with spyware which when downloaded into a computer enables the operators of US ChessLive to read the entire hard drive of the subscriber, including credit card numbers and bank account passwords.
Although the operators of US ChessLive promise only to extract "non-identifying information" from the hard drive of subscribers, the fact is that only USCF members are allowed to join US ChessLive, which means that the operators already have access to a database containing the name, address and ID number of every one of the 88,000 USCF members. Thus, a subscriber when he signs up and provides his USCF ID number, makes his identity known to US ChessLive.
This is precisely the reason why the operators of US ChessLive have offered their software to USCF members "free of charge". They say that they make their money from "advertising". This suggests that they are advertising to USCF members, but what they are really doing is advertising the contents of the hard drives of USCF members to others.
Doris Barry led the fight to stop USCF from accepting the $500,000 scholarship offer from KasparovChess, a no risk opportunity. This would have cost USCF nothing, and would have resulted in joint Kasparov-USCF media opportunities.
In addition, Doris Barry tried to stop a US Team from being sent to the World Chess Olympiad in Istanbul. She voted against holding a US Championship for the year 2000 and then she voted against allowing George DeFeis to negotiate with the Seirawan group to hold the US Championship in Seattle. She also voted in favor of fiddle points.
[Write in Other Grounds]
On these or other grounds, I petition for Doris Barry to be recalled.
USCF Voting Member
Editor's comment: Sam Sloan and I share a low opinion of the performance of the four EB members he is trying to recall, and he asked for my opinion regarding his planned mailing. I replied that I thought it would probably be counterproductive, and recommended that he abandon the effort.
Sloan went ahead anyway, and USCF President Tim Redman has since claimed that I support the Sloan recall effort. While I think the federation would benefit from the resignation of a few of Sloan's targets, I am uncertain whether to support the recall or sign any of the petitions.
There are a number of reasons why, even though I think this alliance of four is doing great damage to USCF, I am hesitant to endorse the recall.
First, as bad as they are, the idea of removing a majority of the Board is a bit absurd as it would not even leave a quorum that is necessary to conduct business, and a period of months could ensue without replacement Board members.
Second, I fear that if a recall campaign that is supported by former Board members and others prominent in USCF fails to obtain the necessary signatures, this might politically strengthen the targets of the recall attempt and their allies. And this effort could easily fail because it is led by Sloan, who not only lacks popularity, but also has a bad habit of not checking his facts carefully, and has made some incorrect statements in his mailing, though probably fewer than President Tim Redman claims. And if there is enough grassroots support for the recall to ultimately succeed in obtaining a two-thirds vote for removal, it should be possible to obtain 75 signatures without having prominent opponents of the current Board majority campaigning for voters to sign.
Third, once the targets of the recall and their allies are out of power, they will probably seek retribution by attempting to have some of the new Board members recalled. Frequent recall attempts are not a productive way to run the federation.
On the other hand, an argument in favor of signing at least some petitions is that this should not be a referendum on Sam Sloan, but rather on the four Board members he has targeted. No matter how many mistakes may be in Sloan's letter, it is undeniable that Redman, Pechac, Barry and Warren all supported the horrendously unwise decision to jack the TLA fees out of sight, driving perhaps a third of the TLAs out of Chess Life, and persuading some organizers to spend their time on something other than promoting chess.
At a time when attendance and USCF regular memberships were already declining, and a pro-affiliate policy was desperately needed, these four Board members poured gasoline on the fire by telling organizers, already deprived of their affiliate commissions, that they could either pay tripled or quadrupled TLA fees or take their publicity elsewhere, even though many state publications have too small a circulation or are issued too infrequently to be an acceptable substitute, and many players are still not on the net. And this decision was implemented right after the St. Paul delegates meeting, without any attempt to consult the delegates, who are supposed to be the ultimate governing authority in the federation. The conclusion is inescapable that the delegates were not consulted because the Board feared (correctly) that they would not have approved. What a contrast to the way former ED Mike Cavallo handled a much smaller TLA fee increase in 1997, explaining what he intended to do at the Orlando meetings and later modifying his proposal before implementation in reaction to criticism!
To make matters worse, our President told us that the outrageous TLA fees were all part of a carefully constructed plan focusing heavily on newsstand sales (which have never been significant despite a variety of formats including a special insert about 1990) and designed to recruit the "casual player," who is assumed to be interested in chess art, chess fiction, chess poems, human interest, celebrities who play chess, just about everything except the playing of serious chess. This idea has been tried over and over again throughout USCF history and has always been a total bust. Every reader survey ever taken, including a very recent one, has shown that USCF members massively prefer games, analysis, news and TLAs to art, fiction, human interest and the like. For this Board to try yet another attempt to accomplish what history shows cannot be done, at this critical time, at the expense of popular and necessary features such as TLAs, is simply incredible.
So what am I recommending the voter do? If you agree that the Board's TLA and Chess Life policies are a disaster and lean towards signing petitions to recall all four, please go ahead. I'm not trying to talk you out of it, and it is unlikely that all four will actually be recalled to make a quorum impossible. If you're in the middle and want the alliance that is harming the federation broken up but don't want a recall against a majority of the Board, you might consider signing three petitions and omitting Helen Warren, because she was the only one of the four that was open minded enough to first reconsider "activity points," which would have destroyed the integrity of the rating system. If you're only willing to sign one petition, I suggest Tim Redman, not because he is the worst Board member, but because he is the President and chief spokesman for the horrible TLA and Chess Life changes; to force him to defend these policies in a recall election would send a dramatic signal that the voters want these changes reversed as soon as possible. And if you're afraid that any recall election is unwise, I've given you some reasons above to support that position, too.
I still worry that Sloan's effort may backfire. But now that it is a reality, let's see how many voters are upset enough about recent events to sign at least one petition, if (as I expect) there are no follow-up mailings by others designed to encourage signatures.