A letter from David Ellsworth to all AAW Members:
AAW Member #00001
The AAW: 1986 – the future!
The Board of the AAW is embroiled in a major crisis and is asking for help from the membership.
I am the first member of the AAW. I was President for five of the six years that I was on the Board. I was part of a select group of trusted individuals that were elected to that Board by the initial membership of around 230 people. And among all the responsibilities we assumed, the most important was to protect the membership, protect the organization, and keep politics out of the legislative process.
So I am particularly distraught to see the current crisis surrounding Mary Lacer's termination as Executive Director of the AAW escalate to the point where a fence has been erected that was specifically designed to position each of us on one side or the other, whether we chose to be part of this dilemma or not. As expected, individuals from around the woodturning world who have formed lasting friendships over the past thirty+ years have now been placed in the awkward position of taking sides and as a result, some of those friendships have now terminated.
I have seen enough crisis situations within the AAW to realize the futility of name-calling and the inevitable problems that ensue when people depend on partial or biased and even blatantly false information. And like all situations of this nature, there have been 'right' and 'wrong' actions committed on both sides of the fence. So I am not looking for blame, but rather solutions.
Before the AAW had an Executive Director, we had a succession of administrators: Bob Rubel, Dennis Horman, Roy Bohrer, and finally, Mary Lacer. Each of these employees prior to Mary had strengths and weaknesses, and each was terminated by a Board decision when weaknesses in the execution of their responsibilities were discovered. With one exception, this situation is no different: an employee of the AAW has been terminated. The exception, of course, is that Mary Lacer carries a very strong emotional connection to the membership and the history of our group. And it is for this reason that the reaction to her termination has reached such volatile proportions.
No one is questioning Mary Lacer's history with this organization, specifically her ability to pull together the garbled remains of Bohrer's group (ASMI) in Texas and reconstruct a workable mailing list that allowed communication with our members to resume. With the oversight of our treasurer at that time, Dick Gerard, together they rebuilt the foundations of the financial needs of the organization. Her actions as an Administrator over the years have been exemplary and she has been well praised for that work.
However, the qualifications to become an Executive Director and the responsibilities that position carries are very different and far more complex than those of an Administrator. Without going into those details, like it or not, in a corporate world – and the AAW is a corporation – when mistakes are made, there is no room for personal history or popularity or favoritism or sentimentality on any level: you're simply out!
The Board knew that asking the ED to resign would not be a popular decision and that the repercussions would be intense. And how could they not be considering Mary's history with the organization? The Board also knew they had a fiduciary responsibility to the membership to discover the nature of the problems as they have been defined and then to act accordingly. And they did.
This group of board members comes to the AAW with a huge range of experiences from management to education to finance. We elected them to run the organization and when necessary, to make tough decisions. Asking the ED to resign was not an easy decision, nor was it popular. But in a review of the ED's performance over the past eighteen months, six of the eight board members deemed it was necessary.
As it currently stands, Mary Lacer has elected not to accept the Board's offer to resign. Instead, Malcolm Tibbetts, with the support of Mary and Alan Lacer and others, has publicly initiated a proxy that would require the signatures of only 5% of AAW members with the intention to unseat the board and replace it with individuals of their own choosing rather than being elected by the membership. This action, while legal as recorded in the AAWs bylaws, forces the Board to protect the interests of the organization and the membership by initiating its own proxy.
I am asking you, as a member of our organization, to support the current Board.
You can do this by immediately signing the Board's proxy (see link below) to help the Board resolve these issues and move forward.
Once this matter is settled, the Board will take immediate action to: (1) re-write the Bylaws that would include a democratic vote from the entire membership; (2) reconstruct the financial database so that all incoming and outgoing items are accountable and traceable; and (3) begin the search for a new ED.
The sooner we can put this issue behind us the sooner we can get back to the business of supporting our members, supporting our organization and leaving the politics out of woodturning.
Thank you and most sincerely,
July 25, 2010