Tuesday, April 6, 2004

7:47:00 PM EDT

Standards of Conduct


From: Tim Redman (redman@utdallas.edu)

Subject: Re: Las Vegas expenditures

Newsgroups: rec.games.chess.politics

Date: 1999/12/04


Dear Paul,


    Although some have described the deal as $10K or free rooms on rgcp, the
account provided by BarbaraDeMaro to Mike Cavallo and circulated to the Board
reported that she herself negotiated the free rooms over and above the $40K &
donated by FIDE to cover expenses connected with publicizing the tournament.
My concern has been with the legality,
not the propriety, of the actions of our
leaders in this event.



Tim Redman



Those who cannot put the needs of the corporation above their own should not serve as officers.  The USCF is in need of consistent interpretation and enforcement of its’ standards of conduct for its’ leaders. Too long has dishonesty and disrespect by our leaders been considered the status quo. Regarding the issue of conflict of interest, please note the most important component of any conflict of interest policy is the disclosure process which is completely missing from the current Standards of Conduct for the USCF Executive Board. I think a separate more specific policy for conflicts that all board members (including delegates) must sign has shown in other organizations to provide better awareness and compliance on this issue. It is uncertain that the EB members themselves will ever bring an action against another EB member through the Ethics Committee concerning the Standards of Conduct for the USCF Executive Board.


The USCF Ethics Committee has oversight for the Standards of Conduct for USCF Executive Board (EB) members. The Ethics Committee is an insular group that to some acts as a tribunal noted for being arbitrary and unaccountable in its proceedings. In the past the Ethics Committee has tended to be an organizer enforcement tool adhering to parsing fixed rules without regard to intent rather than using a guiding philosophy on behalf of the membership of truth, fairness, justice, due process, privacy, equality, accountability, and fiduciary duty. Some Committee members can be sticklers about members violating tournament rules, but appear to regard the violation of the organizations rules by its leadership as an unimportant matter. I recognize the condition that with so many conflicts of interest in the organization, no allegations are brought forward to the committee as there also appears to be an apparent reluctance of the Committee to involve itself in such matters. The idea of attempting to handle an EB standards complaint like a tournament ethics complaint is like putting a round peg in a square hole. Those involved with the committee are usually expert in tournament direction/rules and have little training in law or ethics. With the Committee's focus on pitting people against each other rather than providing ethical guidance the culture will not be soon to change.

One faction of the Committee basically accepted that the addition of the EB Standards of Conduct to the Committee's governing documents in 1997 expanded the Committee's responsibilities and requires that more cases with a political component be accepted for review. A second faction disagrees with this view, preferring the traditional role of the Committee and wants to limit cases as much as possible to chess tournament related issues. In recent years, this second faction has become increasingly strident, believing that far too many "political" cases have been accepted. This is a clear violation of the Committee’s charge and its fiduciary duty.


That notwithstanding it is my view that the Ethics Committee should not be an investigative body regarding the standards of conduct as they are not empowered to adjudicate or resolve any conflicts. The delegates appoint the Ethics Committee. Since the delegates hold themselves to a lower standard than the EB in this regard (as they have no code of conduct for themselves), bringing issues to them to resolve makes little sense to me as I also don't see the delegates empowered to undo or sanction a membership elected EB member.


However as an independent body from the EB the Ethics Committee is in a great position to be an advisory group for disclosure and advice regarding the standards as practiced. It is very helpful to any corporation to go to its ethics group and run a situation past them to get a perspective whether something is inappropriate, a conflict that must be mitigated, or an appearance that requires some arms length activity to retain the confidence of the membership and community. Written ethics decisions provide ongoing guidance as new situations occur, further defining and refining an ethical culture. Ethical diligence is necessary to change the current culture. Unfortunately since in practice the Ethics Committee appears to be a political committee, I'm fine with the committee not wanting to do this, but then I would then suggest another EB committee be used to provide this independent perspective as I believe the USCF leadership and particularly the EB itself can't see the forest for the trees regarding their conduct.



Ethics Committee in action


Dorsch Complaint


Sloan Complaint


Schultz Complaint


More Sloan Complaints


Tanner Complaint


Truong Complaint


The Importance of Corporate Values


Too long the USCF had only been concerned with the legality, not the propriety, of the behavior of its leaders. The implementation of the Standards of Conduct for the USCF Executive Board has added propriety as an organizational concern. How our leaders conduct themselves on our behalf has become as important as what they do on our behalf. However rules of conduct are not enforced as “any doubt” is the standard self selected by our leaders. The behavior guiding value still seems to be – can I get away with it? Maybe it should be more about doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reason. Some might even argue acting consistently with proper organizational values does, in the long run, further the interests of the membership. Proper values should shape the conduct of those who act on our behalf. Below are a suggested set of such values that can be used to guide our directors regarding their corporate decision making and behavior:


External Obsession: The USCF is committed to the advancement, growth and development of chess as an enjoyable, lifetime sport that contributes to good health, character, and responsible citizenship.


Integrity: The USCF is committed to the highest standards of sportsmanship, integrity, honesty, and ethics.


Inclusiveness: The USCF actively seeks all people who play, watch, support, and/or enjoy the game of chess into its events, programs, membership, leadership, and activities on a non-discriminatory basis.


Respect: Volunteerism, a derivative of passion, must be maintained with proper doses of perspective and behavior. The same is true for the interpersonal relationships necessary for non-profit work. People work and react best when treated professionally.


Excellence: The USCF’s mission is served by helping American chess players achieve competitive excellence.


Teamwork: The USCF embraces the concept that growth in chess participation is best achieved, not in isolation, but by strategic alliances with other organizations, both inside and outside chess.


Accountability: The USCF as a volunteer-based organization is committed to a governance and delivery structure that fosters appropriate and effective accountability to, participation by, and input from its membership.


Regulating ethical conduct         Where is the line between personal and public life?        Principles for Good Governance                        Ethical Guidelines          So What?