Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Washington Arms Collectors - Will we still have a gun show?

I'm annoyed. Sufficiently so as to take the hatbox down off the shelf, and dig out the activist hat...dusty and moth-eaten as it is, and go merrily to wreak political havoc in the cause of justice and keeping a good organization kicking around.

The Washington Arms Collectors are the largest, and arguably the oldest, pro-firearms organizations in the State of Washington. With a membership in the thousands, they exercise no small political clout. While occasionally hidebound, they are normally a force for good in the universe.

However, in a terrible moment of foolishness, the membership managed to elect a majority of ninnyhammers to the organizations board. Normally, I'd shrug and wait it out - hit the shows, keep my head down, and let the folks who can still enjoy or tolerate such things deal with it.

What happened?

With all the grace and good judgment of a village idiot hurling a grenade into a manure pond, renegade WAC Directors ejected Dan Frank from his position as Editor of the WAC Newsletter and expelled him from WAC membership entirely -- barring him from all WAC events (including
shows) and club property and conveniently forgetting they simply don't have the authority to do that.

Given that I've known Frank for some years, this rather startled me - bringing me out of my cherished political torpor, out of loyalty to a friend and concern for
WAC. Crazy, after all, is seldom good for an organization.

Reading Franks "Goodbye" column in the Newsletter, I began to research. I found nothing meriting termination of employment, suspension, or expulsion.

It is my firm belief that, acting in gross violation of the
WAC bylaws, that the majority of the Board has exposed, for no reason beyond petty vindictiveness,WAC to serious and wholly preventable liability should Mr. Frank choose to exercise his legal rights - which he has.

The allegation that Mr. Frank wrongfully changed a members status in the database in what (I believe) was his honest belief he was correcting an error -- if true, is less his fault than the database administrator who allowed him inappropriate "write" access privileges, rather than "read-only" appropriate to the role of editor (or for that matter, Director -- and even that much access is questionable). Write access should be granted only on a basis of "is there no other way you can do this". In any case, the "sin" is pretty darned picayune.

The charge, frankly, to me smelled more of trumped up "I got you, you SOB!" than any actual legitimate offense. Nothing yet has turned up to convince me otherwise.

However, that is largely irrelevant -- because while the Board *might* have the authority to terminate Frank from an at will position as Editor, they do not have the authority to expel Mr. Frank for the above.

A WAC member can only be expelled for two reasons, as outlined in both the obsolete bylaws WAC Bylaws or under the currently valid bylaws (11/25/10, no online link). (Article VII(B)1, summarized, emphasis mine).

1) A conviction of a crime making one ineligible to possess firearms.

2) May result from any second violation of W.A.C. rules, bylaws or BoD resolutions as such currently exist or may hereafter be adopted or modified.

Given nobody has charged Frank with, let alone convicted him, of any qualifying crime the expulsion fails the first option. Lacking any prior violation by Frank, the expulsion also fails on the second.

Directors acting in defiance of WAC's bylaws, expelled Frank regardless --an inherently invalid action. Illegitimate actions under color of authority typically are. As a bonus, we ALL get to pay when Frank wins his lawsuit for damage to his professional and/or private reputation and his membership is restored by the astonishingly literate judge. Can you thank the nice renegades?

As a member of any organization, I have simple little expectations -- that the leadership play by the rules, refrain from engaging in chargeable offenses, and avoid actions that are likely to get the organization hauled in front of a judge. Say...illegitimate expulsions, for instance.

The renegades (for what else do you call Directors blowing off by-laws?) managed to blow two out of three. Were they mere members, it'd be easy. Bring them before the Board, point out they'd been very naughty, and then suspend them. Problem solved.

But Board members can only be tried by themselves, and when the naughty are in the majority, that leaves only regular and recall elections, and then actions of the general membership...or litigation, that last and least charming of resorts.

The second issue , that of rogue directors (in yet another exciting fashion) acting in the touchingly delusional belief that board resolutions and/or later votes can trump a vote of the membership to change the organizations bylaws (or, for that matter, much of anything
else) indicates a serious misunderstanding of how membership organizations work.

Once a group of Directors starts rejecting elections they don't like, it's time to pull the flush handle. Where does it stop? Disapproving elections that don't result in their re-election or that of their favored candidates?

The members own the organization, not the Directors. In a conflict between the members and the Board, the members win...they own the group, after all.

Directors are stewards, serving the interests and desires of the membership with additional and specific fiduciary duties to the members.

They run the group as long as the members let them.

Members can remove Directors by use of the recall process; they can remove Directors via general elections; and they can make sweeping changes in policy by calling a meeting of the general membership (think Constitutional Convention, ratchet back 10 notches, and you're fairly
well clocked in). A general membership meeting, barring surprises since I last dealt with such things at any serious level, can do fun things like removing a Directors voting rights for the remainder of his or her term -- and then call it a light warm-up before the serious
blood-letting begins.

Third and finally, failing to correct an organizational tendency towards actions based on "we've done it this way since ", and to take shortcuts (essentially, a view of "bugger the rules, we're gonna do THIS"). Simply, negligence. Nonfeasance. If you have a locked in majority, that's part of the package...a responsibility to ensure that the rules are followed, not passions indulged.

The above, combined with the bile and conspiracy theories expressed at the "special meeting" of the board I witnessed on 1/18/11 -- a meeting called to find ways to defy the will of the membership and punish the opposition, in my opinion -- did not leave me filled with pride in WAC's leaders. A board member throwing a tantrum and making motions to dissolve the board because he didn't like what he was hearing doesn't much impress me.

The as yet anonymous publication and distribution (by board members) of a scurrilous collection of misinformation, slander (in my lay opinion, consult your favorite attorney), ignorance, and misleading statements at the 1/22 Puyallup Show moved me from irritation to being downright annoyed.

This document, distributed from some odd combination of "directors tables" and the FONRA tables, rather crossed some boundaries. At a personal level, I was offended by the use of my name without permission, specifically barred under the WAC Election Code. I was not calmed by the document then attacking a friend, Boyd Kneeland (former WAC Director, current WAC webmaster).

And finally, I was utterly unamused by the assaults on the Second Amendment Foundation and the Gun Owners Action League of Washington - our two most potent forces in the state capitol keeping the hoplophobes in check, and in the case of the Second Amendment Foundation, our strongest advocate before the courts (the nice folks that brought us Heller, McDonald, and more...).

Some things simply should not be done.

Fortunately, as members we have a choice. It's not often that I call upon the power of the blogosphere and the madness of forums (in fact, I can't recall having done so).

If you're in Washington and aren't already a Washington Arms Collectors member, join now. If you're not in Washington, write an email regarding this kind of silliness to the WAC board. If you're free tonight, attend the WAC Board meeting and chat with directors before and after, sharing your opinion.

Finally, if you're a WAC member already, you've either received or will shortly recieve your ballot in GunNews for the 2011 election of the WAC board and officers.

Vote for Leland Bull for President of Washington Arms Collectors. Bull is a decent sort, and has striven, against the tide, to find ways for the factions on the Board to work together far longer than most would before coming to the conclusion that such efforts were futile, joining the Reform Slate.

Bill Burris and Rick Verzal have both served honorably with the Washington Arms Collectors, and promise to not only continue to do so, but provide valuable institutional memory going forward. Burris is a retired Pierce County Deputy and brings a valuable law enforcement perspective to the Board. Verzal is a long time FFL holder (bringing an important vendor viewpoint to the Board) and dedicated to member education and fending off the ongoing attacks on gun shows.

Similarly, vote for Dave Workman. As the editor of Gun Weekly, author of Washington Gun Rights & Responsibilities, past President of Snoqualmie Valley Rifle Club, a past NRA Director, and owner/operator of D&D GunLeather Workman brings a combination of national and local Pro-RKBA knowledge and experience combined with a fundamentally fair, if gruff, nature that clearly serves the best interests of Washington Arms Collectors to retain as a Director.

Having the Chair of the Washington GOP as a member of the Board is almost certainly a good thing - and that Kirby Wilbur is a past WAC Director and a noted regional radio celebrity is clearly of benefit as well. Voting for Wilbur is a vote for a vigorous club with its own facility in the relatively near future.

Finally, as one of the founding members and current leader of the Second Amendment Foundation, Alan Gottleib also brings expertise as the President of several radio stations and a wide variety of leadership experience that makes him a valued addition to the WAC Board. A vote for Gottleib is a vote for sanity.

If you're angry, you have a right to be - but don't just sit on your hands. Do something about it. I'll be at the Board meeting tonight and voting shortly.


Boyd K said...

I would appreciate any information anyone has about the authorship or distribution of the flier titled "Membership Alert: WAC in Danger of Take Over". If you were at the 1/22-23 show or know someone who was and have any information please email me: Boyd@seanet.com
-Boyd Kneeland, WAC webmaster, education committee co chair, former Director and 17 year volunteer

Old NFO said...

GC, sorry to hear what sounds like a good organization has taken such a lousy turn. You are correct, MEMBERS own the organization, not elected BOD folks (and it also sounds like some power corruption going on).

Guncrank said...

I have known Mr Dan Frank to be an excellent example of Mans Man. A true American who stands up for the rights of others, and in general a good guy. The WAC Board needs to be RECALLED and refreshed with new members who will take the time needed to READ THE BYLAWS, and treat fellow members with the respect they deserve.

Gay_Cynic said...

A brief update:

1) The election was held, and now the villains hold a 5-4 minority. Feel free to apply the recalls as needed.

2) The bylaws committee has been tasked with a "fix it all" re-write, and that is in progress.

3) The Franks lawsuit proceeds apace. A settlement has not yet been reached.

Get involved. Attend board meetings. Join or attend committee's that interest you.

Keeping things open and having enough club members involved as to make subterfuge difficult is a wonderful thing. Might even prevent another round of this kind of silly.

Anonymous said...

As an aside, has anybody noticed how anal the security has become? I can't let my almost 16 year old son carry a rifle, even in my immediate presence, or hold a pistol in a closed case. One would think that WAC would want to encourage the younger generations to participate rather than alienating them.
I've been a WAC member since 2001.

AJ Hansen