AGM - why I am rejecting the change to the constitution

Firstly I want to thank the committee for all their hard work, especially over the last difficult year and as they handle issues with permissions and restrictions on events going forward. It is an often a joyless job, but we could not orienteer without them.

The AGM 2021 is taking place virtually this year (for obvious sensible reasons) - but it is a shame there is no opportunity for members to discuss any of the items on the agenda together especially the proposed change to the constitution.

The proposal is to remove the restriction on the number of years the chair can serve, as described by Alasdair at Constitution Change 2021 - YouTube

I have no issue with our existing chair (or committee) at all, but the principle of a restriction on term length is important for a healthy democratic club. Sarah has recently been involved with two committees - in one she was unpicking fraud where one of the follow-up suggestions was to limit the term of office of key positions, and a second committee which added this clause into their constitution due to a significant over-reliance on a single long-standing committee member, which was problematic.

I understand the argument that members can always vote out an existing chair, but in reality, any member who wishes to run against an incumbent chair is fighting an uphill battle.

I am completely sympathetic to why this proposal is being made, but can we instead encourage more interest in joining the committee, perhaps with new specific adhoc roles or even instigating a deputy chair role to overlap with the chair so a potential future chair can gain experience before switching with the chair to maintain some consistency (all approved by members). Perhaps as well the maximum term can be extended rather than removed?

As it stands, for these reasons, I reject the change to remove this clause from the constitution and urge other members to do likewise.

Thank you for your comments and for starting this thread. It was a big oversight on my part not to create such threads in the first place and I will be linking this one in to the AGM page today.

As I have since this amendment was proposed I will stick to only giving factual comments rather than my personal opinion. I apologise if this seems defensive, but as the incumbent it feels inappropriate to do otherwise. Similarly, if the membership vote is such that it comes down to my casting vote, I would have to vote to keep the status quo.
All the points you raise are completely valid and were raised in committee discussion. In addition, when this was discussed at SWOA committee there was also the concern that it might put additional pressure on the chair to keep standing.

We are very keen for new people to help with running the club. That can be in new positions or shadowing existing ones. We are very aware in particular that there are some key skilled areas where we are reliant on a few people who may not be able to keep doing it for much longer.
Before this proposal was made, I knew that if I was re-elected for a third term I was going to have to put considerable effort into finding a successor. Even if this amendment is passed, I will still make adding new blood to the existing committee with the aim of growing a successor a priority.

Posted on behalf of Roger Craddock who found himself unable to log in to the chat site. This is a direct copy and paste of a document he emailed me this morning asking to post here:

Alasdair mentions Judy’s promotion of the amendment to the constitution proposed to the AGM. Although she raised the issue in the light of the difficulty we had in finding a successor to me as Chairman at the 2019 AGM, it was discussed at the last (and only non-virtual) committee meeting.

It is important to know that, apart from the Chairman (for reasons he has mentioned) it was agreed unanimously to be a committee proposal.

The arguments for rejecting the amendment have been based on a reasonable analysis of the business model of a professional body and are broadly similar to those I supported when the amendment was rejected previously. However, having served as QO Chair for 2 periods of 3 years and having been treasurer for the intervening 9 years, I have seen the difficulty of applying these principles to a small club like ours. My personal epiphany came as a result of seeing:

  • The QO committee consists of a small group of locally based, voluntary, dedicated officials
  • The unwillingness of current officials to step out of their current roles into the Chair (or vice-chair)
  • The pathway currently employed of encouraging those new to the club (mainly from JOG families) to become involved. This is to help plan and control a JOG before committing to other specialist roles. Many are not interested in a further step to an admin role.
  • QO is very fortunate to have a nucleus of specialists and administration officials who are prepared to support our ‘niche’ sport where numbers are restricted by the involvement of families and those with a passion for navigation and individual challenge. Many of these have served for many years both on and off the committee without any restriction on time.

Before casting a vote rejecting the amendment, consider the following:

- are you prepared to see the current Chair retired?

- do you see anyone who would emerge from our membership to lead QO through such a difficult period again with such energy, positivity, and expertise?

- would you be prepared to offer 3 years as Chair?

Roger Craddock (President) 20/09/2021

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I will get in touch with Roger (@craddocktaunton) to see if I can get him up and running on the chat site - he should hopefully get my reply to this as he is tagged.

Both the examples I gave relate to committees and groups smaller than QO, so it does still feel relevant.

I completely appreciate the issues regarding recruitment to the committee, and I have a view on this as a relative newcomer to the club which I will perhaps discuss with Roger and Alasdair another time, but there are alternatives that solve the problem in the short term without the need to remove a critical safeguard - for example increasing the term to 5 years, allowing two terms of office or passing an emergency extension should no replacement be nominated (or indeed just because it is a critical (and extraordinary) time for the club). Have these options been considered by the committee?

To be clear, as I told Alasdair in private, I am completely supportive of him as Chair, so any of these other options would get my support, but I still cannot support this specific proposed change.

As a matter of process, as this is still an AGM (albeit not face to face) can I propose an amendment?

I suggested changing to 5 years in the committee discussion.

A discussion and any new ideas about recruitment are always welcome. I know that my initial plans to do something were scuppered by Lockdown.

Yes, an amendment can be proposed. I will add it to the AGM page and announce it. Once seconded (or immediately if it is proposed with a second already in place) I will add it to the voting options. I would then contact those who have already voted inviting them to change their vote on that item if they want to.

I have submitted a formal amendment:

My amendment is to delete the bold sentence above replacing it with: "The Chairman shall not serve as such for more than five consecutive years. ", making the statement:

4.1 The affairs of the Club shall be managed by a committee consisting of the Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer together with at least four other members, all of whom shall be elected annually at the Annual General Meeting (AGM). The Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer shall be full members of the British Orienteering Federation. The Chairman shall not serve as such for more than five consecutive years. If any post should become vacant then the Committee shall have the authority to fill the vacancy until the next AGM, either from within the Committee or by co-opting another member.

The reasons for this amendment is that a restriction on the term of the chair is recommended practice to ensure good governance and to provide a safeguard against fraud and committees not acting in the interest of members (especially as no other role has any limits). However extending the restriction mitigates against the difficulty of recruiting suitable replacements and provides more stable leadership during difficult times.

At a face to face AGM, the amendment would presumably be voted on first, before the amended (or not) original proposal is voted on. Perhaps a suitable alternative for a virtual AGM, given that voting is already underway, is to ask the members to revote on the proposal with the following options:

a) Accept the original proposal
b) Accept the amended proposal
c) Reject both proposals

In my professional opinion I am very strongly against this amendment, I cannot support any change in constitution which allows unlimited terms.

I have just spent the last few months unpicking financial fraud in a very small club, done by a long term trusted member of the committee, something that had to be reported to the police and upwards to the top levels of the sporting body. I have sadly seen firsthand what a issue having unlimited service in one position can be.

This also will put people off committee roles in future as A. Members know the incumbent can continue, so there is no need for them to step up and serve and B. Members who wish to serve for limited terms may not stand through worry that they will be tied in.

In terms of encouraging more members to serve there are many other ways to do this that I have seen work successfully, rather than using unlimited term committees, which will solve one short term problem whilst adding to the longer term issue of bringing members in to serve.