Wednesday, January 27, 2010

USCF Special Elections for Executive Board - Unintended Consequences


If you don't follow USCF politics, you can skip this post.  I almost did :)

Generally, I don't give a hoot about chess politics.  Every now and then when an interesting article comes along about chess politics elsewhere, I will post it here.  I also did some posting back in 2007 when GM Susan Polgar and several other candidates were running for seats on the USCF's Executive Board.  They sort of function as a Board of Directors in the day-to-day running of the Federation's business, and once a year it is fairly routine that delegates elected by member state chess organizations and sent to the annual meeting (I believe it is usually held in conjunction with the U.S. Open) by vote ratify the Executive Board's actions for the prior 12 months. 

I like Susan Polgar. I admire her accomplishments as a chessplayer and as a woman playing chess - following the dudes' rules - at a time when it just was not kosher to do so. Her example as a female playing chess at the same level as men against them in the events they played in, inspired many female chessplayers, and she paved the way for the others who came after her. 

I think that GM Polgar has done a lot to promote chess among women all around the world, and particularly here in the USA since she settled here and became a U.S. citizen.  Now her playing days are behind her, but she put a cap on an illustrious chessplaying career by earning a Women's Team silver for the USA Women's Team and an Individual Gold medal for her performance on Board 1 at the 2004 Chess Olympiad.  This was an outstanding moment in the annals of U.S. chess history.

GM Susan Polgar has moved on to other things, most notably, becoming an organizer of national tournaments and the Director of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.  In a few short years SPICE has built a collegiate chess team to be reckoned with and has established and held prestigious invitational tournaments, some of which have provided American chessplayers with the opportunity to earn coveted GM norms. 

Susan Polgar has always been gracious and helpful when I have turned to her for assistance in doing our own modest chess promotions for Goddesschess.  We sponsor prizes, etc. for female chessplayers in three or four tournaments a year, as well as sponsoring a special prize since 2007 in the U.S. Women's Chess Championship.

I suspect GM Polgar gets multitudes of requests for assistance from people just like me every day, but she has always answered any email I sent to her and she has always come through when I have made a request of her - and even when I did not make a request of her.   In November, 2009, SP donated 28 copies of her own software that teaches beginners (geared toward children) how to play chess.  I did not ask her for this generous donation - she read a last minute online plea that I made on behalf of Computer Labs for Kids that is run by my friend and fellow chessplayer, Shira Evans.  GM Polgar contacted me and donated what was needed with no questions asked.  I can say, based on information I have received since, that the chess program GM Polgar donated to that November, 2009 computer lab (for 28 kids in foster care in Chicago) had an impact - one that will probably be years in the making and we may see unexpected results long since, the impact that learning chess using GM Polgar's chess software program made on these kids.

Back in 2007, I supported Susan Polgar and the other candidates that she recommended to be elected to seats on the USCF Executive Board.  Chess politics at the national level of chess in the US have been disfunctional for many many years - longer than I've became interested in chess as an avocation (1999).  For the most part this disfunctionality has not affected the rank and file members, who play in events in their neighborhoods and states, under the auspices of their state chess associations.  Most members don't pay attention to the trials and tribulations of the chess politicians.  They just want to play chess, get their games rated in a timely manner, and get their magazine with chess news on a fairly current basis -- either in print or on line.  A whole horde more of chessplayers do not even belong to the USCF, because they don't care to play in officially rated tournaments; they play casually, either in clubs or at the local coffee shop, library or restaurant, and perhaps they belong to a club, but usually not. 

I believed then that Susan Polgar and the candidates that she endorsed could have a positive impact on how the USCF functioned as an organization.  I was naive.  My optimistic expectations were proved wrong, but I do not hold this against Susan Polgar or her husband, Paul Truong, who was also elected to a seat on the USCF Executive Board.  Suffice to say that for most of our blog fans, a recitation of blow by blow or even a general overview of the somewhat convoluted events that followed and the litigation (law suits) that resulted  would be totally B-O-R-I-N-G!  For those who are caught up in the tale of that litigation, they will go to their graves still nattering about it.  For everyone else they say "chess?  Who gives a ff?," shrug their shoulders and move on. 

As part of the entire process that evolved with the litigation, the members of the USCF Executive Board, minus the votes of Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, in 2009 stripped GM Polgar and Mr. Truong of their USCF membership status, and thereby declared that they could no longer serve as duly-elected Executive Board members since they were no longer USCF members.

How revoking the USCF memberships of GM Polgar and Mr. Truong in 2009 could possibly affect the fact that both GM Polgar and Mr. Truong were legally USCF members in 2007 and legally elected back then to serve four-year terms as Executive Board members could, two years later, void the election results is totally beyond me.  Hmmm...  It just doesn't sound fair, does it? 

Regardless of what I thought or think of the litigation and the actions of the USCF in attempting to void the results of a legal election of people to the USCF Executive Board, most everything in the various law suits (combined into one giant-size law suit in a Federal District Court) was settled a few days ago, an Order was signed and various claims and causes of action were dismissed with prejudice.  That means, generally, that any claim that someone in the settlement might otherwise be able to bring against another person or entity in the settlement related to the facts underlying the original case (or cases), cannot be brought up again, including the fact of the other members of the USCF Executive Board stripping GM Susan Polgar and Mr. Truong of their USCF memberships and, ex post facto, declaring the results of the 2007 USCF Executive Board elections null and void - only as to GM Polgar and Mr. Truong. 

Two parties in the law suits were not part of the settlement:  Gregory Alexander and Sam Sloan.  Suits involving these two parties remain intact and were not settled.

After stripping GM Susan Polgar and Mr. Truong of their seats as duly elected USCF Executive Board members, the USCF decided that it was obliged to hold an election to fill the two seats on the Executive Board formerly held by GM Polgar and Mr. Truong.  Anyone elected to those two positions would hold the seats only until the original term  GM Polgar and Mr. Truong ran out - sometime in 2011.

Only three (three!) members of the USCF filed the necessary paperwork within the necessary time frame to qualify as candidates for the special election for the two vacant Executive Board Seats.  They are:  1. Gary Walters, Ohio; 2. Sam Sloan, New York; and 3. Mike Nietman, Wisconsin.  This slate of candidates was approved by the USCF. One must ask why only three candidates stepped forward? Perhaps a never-ending question.

Which brings me down to a day or two ago.  I was reading some posts at rec.chess.politics - or perhaps it was rec.chess.miscellaneous.  I am certain that I read in a post by - I thought - Mr Sloan - that Mr. Neitman had withdrawn as a candidate.

I do not know if this is true, and I have since then not been able to locate the post in which I read this information.  Either my searching skills have vastly deteriorated over the past few days, or the post that contained this information was removed for one reason or another - perhaps the information it contained was false.  Or perhaps I just dreamed it all. As of this evening, I have not been able to confirm this information elsewhere.  So you must believe what you will.

There remains the distinct possibility that Mr. Sloan, with name recognition from many prior elections and as previously elected to the Executive Board - and he and his supporters broadcasting himself as a fighter for truth, justice and the American Way - could once again be elected to one of the two now vacant Executive Board seats. 

The voting to fill these seats will take place in June, 2010.  I am almost tempted to renew my membership in USCF for 2010 just to vote for Mr. Sloan.  But I think not.  I can put that money to use elsewhere.  Only consider:  if one of the candidates has, in fact, withdrawn from the election, that leaves only two.  Since, according to what I have read, I know that Mr. Sloan has not withdrawn his candidacy, nor is he likely to do so, that means he would win one of the seats by default. 

I do not believe the USCF By-Laws are designed to address such a situation.  Oh my.  Only consider the questions that might be raised:

Could a candidate who withdrew but still received sufficient votes to be elected, except for his withdrawal, actually be legally elected, thereby potentially bouncing Mr. Sloan out of a seat otherwise?  Would this depend upon whether the candidate all of a sudden decided to take the seat - after all?  And what if he said NO NO NO?  A THOUSAND TIMES NO!

If this now unwithdrawn candidate was somehow seated, and succeeded in bouncing Mr. Sloan out of his otherwise legitimately won seat (even if only by 1 vote, Mr. Sloan's own), would Mr. Sloan have a legitimate cause of action against the USCF and, indeed, against each and every single member of the USCF?

Stay tuned...


Sam Sloan said...

The posting that you are referring to that states that Mike Neitman has withdrawn is Fake. I did not post it and also it is not true. Here is the pertinent part of the posting:

On Jan 26, 2:07 pm, samsloan wrote:

> 4. Following Mike Nietman dropping out as a 2010 candidate for the EB,
> it is certain I will be elected. I will repudiate the terms of this
> proposed, improperly signed-off-on, settlement so it is a complete
> waste of this court's time approving what I will overturn.

Several posters on the USCF Issues Forum and also on the "Chess Goddess" blog have believed that the above statement was made by me and that Mike Neitman has dropped out as a candidate.

I wish to emphasize that I DID NOT POST THIS. The above statement was posted by a "Fake Sam Sloan" but not necessarily by Mr. Truong. I have a theory as to who might have posted this and it is not Truong but rather a person who used to post here a long time ago but has not posted in a long time.

As far as I know Mike Neitman has not dropped out as a candidate. I doubt that Mr. Neitman will drop out. The fact that he has been president of the Wisconsin State Chess Association for 20 years indicates that he is unlikely to drop out.

The original posting is here.

You can tell that it was not posted by me because it was posted through which I have never used and the Fake Sam Sloan often uses.

Mr. Neitman has been damaged by this posting by a "Fake Sam Sloan", as I have. I hope that Mr. Neitman will start taking an interest of the problems created by these Fake Sam Sloan postings as a result of this.

The Real Sam Sloan

Jan said...

Thank you for clarifying.

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