Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Debate directly related to English Chess Federation matters.
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Michael Farthing
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Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Michael Farthing » Sat Sep 05, 2015 10:03 pm

I would be making the following formal complaint about the behaviour of the ECF Chief Executive could I afford the £50 fee for doing so:

I write to make a formal complaint about the ECF Board with regard to its treatment of the Director for Home Chess, Mr Alex Holowczak in that there was a clear case of maladministration, as covered by section 1.2 of the ECF Complaints Procedure, in the handling of a complaint made against him. Assuming that the correct protocol (in so far as this is set out in the very inadequare Code of Conduct) was followed I assume that the matter was personally and individually handled by the Chief Executive, Mr Phil Ehr and therefore the complaint is specifically about his behaviour. The Code of Practice specifies that complaints made against the Chief Executive should in the first instance be directed to the Non Executive officers.

In accordance with the Code of Practice the decision against Mr Holowczak has been published on the ECF website and reads as follows:
Temporary suspension from duty

Director of Home Chess Alex Holowczak was given a two week suspension from duty effective 25 August 2015 following a complaint made in accordance with the ECF Complaints Procedure. The investigation found that Mr Holowczak breached the Standards of Conduct for ECF Officials, specifically Regulation 4 paragraphs 2.1 and 2.6. Mr Holowczak is appealing.
The relevant sections of the Standard of Conduct referred to above are these:
2. Standards of Conduct
2.1 All officials of the ECF are representatives of the organisation and must ensure that
their actions do not:
· cause gratuitous offence;
· injure the ECF, its officials or its events, directly or indirectly;
· bring the game of chess or the ECF into disrepute.
This includes, among other things, ensuring that the views, rights, values and dignity
of others are treated with sensitivity and respect. As ambassadors for the game and
for the ECF, officials must ensure that their actions reflect such personal qualities as
honesty, empathy, responsibility and good sportsmanship.

.
2.6 When representing the ECF at an official event or function, officials must ensure that
their actions do not directly or indirectly damage events or discourage sponsors,
volunteers and other parties. Standards of dress appropriate to the occasion should
be maintained, including compliance with any applicable dress code. Official events
or functions are not to be used for the promotion of a non-chess related organisation,
business or cause without the prior agreement of the ECF Board
The complaint was reviewed according to Regulatiuon 5 of the ECF (The Complaints Prodedure).
I draw attention to the section of this document that clearly defines the scope for this procedure as follows:
REGULATION NO. 5 ECF COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE
Made by the Board of English Chess Federation (ECF) on 16th February 2015 pursuant to
Article 82 of the Articles of Association of English Chess Federation

1. Introduction

1.2. Under this procedure complaints should only be brought where there is an alleged serious case of maladministration
This clearly indicates that the Complaints Procedure can ONLY be used for issues of maladministration, yet the statement on the website indicates that the complaint was SPECIFICALLY for an alleged breach of 2.1 and 2.6 of the Standard of Conduct. Neither of these sections concern themselves with any matter of administration but are concerned with personal conduct. It is clear, therefore, that the complaint made was outside the scope of Regulation No 5 and this regulation could not be used to bring disciplinary action in this case. That disciplinary action occurred, leading to an improper suspension of a director from his duties in despite of his election by the ECF Council, has resulted in a haitus in the proper management of Home Chess, uncertainty and bad publicity for the English Chess Federation and, in addition, this action being taken when the holder of the office was submitting himself for re-election, was highly prejudicial to him, and could well be construed as a deliberate attempt to discredit him to an electorate. That this is not an idle possibility is strengthened by the use of the Chief Executive of his election address in the 2014 election to specifically influence the electorate in their choice by using his official position to promote particular candidates.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Sat Sep 05, 2015 10:26 pm

Michael Farthing wrote:I would be making the following formal complaint about the behaviour of the ECF Chief Executive could I afford the £50 fee for doing so:
From comments on this forum and what I've picked up elsewhere I suspect you might find some people willing to chip in!
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Michael Flatt
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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Michael Flatt » Sat Sep 05, 2015 10:36 pm

Michael,
I don't think it worth wasting your money.

The whole procedure is administered by members of the Board and I doubt that you will succeed in this manner. Although you might gain satisfaction it would be less costly to submit a motion at the AGM. I am sure that there would be sufficient requisitionists who would sponsor a suitably worded motion.

The other way for members to register dissatisfaction is by voting against those standing for re-election whom might be implicated in these machinations.

Even simpler would be to post your protest on the Official ECF Forum. That costs nothing.

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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Mike Truran » Sat Sep 05, 2015 11:04 pm

Indeed. Right complaint. Wrong forum.

You would of course not get a reply. But nor will you here - and at least in the other place some Board members might read it, take note of it, and bear it in mind for future reference.

Or maybe not.

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JustinHorton
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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by JustinHorton » Sat Sep 05, 2015 11:21 pm

"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

lostontime.blogspot.com

Alan Kennedy
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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Alan Kennedy » Sun Sep 06, 2015 8:07 am

Was the real reason for Alex's suspension that he put forward a suggestion that the forum in another place should be abolished?

Michael Flatt
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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Michael Flatt » Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:32 am

Alan Kennedy wrote:Was the real reason for Alex's suspension that he put forward a suggestion that the forum in another place should be abolished?
I see as the CEO's attempted to exert his dominance over the rest of the Board. You see it in schools where a teacher targets and punishes one of the pupils continually and for no apparent reason. The idea is to strike fear into the rest of the pupils so they don't step out of line.

Secondly, it diverts attention away from failings of others members of the Board and in particular the one (teachers pet) that made the complaint and retains anonymity.

Of course, the role of the non Executive Directors is to expose this sham for what it is. If they do not speak out they must expect to be questioned about their role at the AGM.

The Board can only retain the veil of secrecy for so long. Certainly the identity of the main protagonists, who are currently anonymous, will be identified at the ECF's AGM.

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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:02 am

Michael Flatt wrote:Certainly the identity of the main protagonists, who are currently anonymous, will be identified at the ECF's AGM.
They are only officially anonymous. Both the complainant and the issue that lead to the intemperate language have been plausibly identified. Of course, if these identifications are false, you might expect to see counter denials. It does give a dilemma to the voting membership at Council. Can it safely elect both protagonists, assuming they are both candidates?

Written warnings would have been a better solution, both in terms of language and in terms of not increasing the pressure on a British Championship team already feeling under pressure from failing technology or lack of expertise in making video broadcasts to the standards established elsewhere. But I don't know what can be done when many of the senior figures involved in running the British Championships have little understanding or trust of technology.

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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Mike Truran » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:06 am

I see as the CEO's attempted to exert his dominance over the rest of the Board.
I'm not sure about that. I don't always see eye to eye with Phil, but I have some sympathy with him on this occasion. I think he was caught on the twin horns of an unworkable complaints procedure and, more particularly, (as I have said in the other place) a disputatious director who put his wish to score a public point against a fellow director above the need for Board unity and good working relationships.

I say "some" rather than "a lot of" because I suspect that even under the complaints procedure Phil could have handled it a whole lot better. Whether a lighter touch would have satisfied the director in question is of course mere speculation.

The underlying issue is having a set of directors in place a number of whom refuse to work with other directors on a professional and collegiate basis.

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Michael Farthing
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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Michael Farthing » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:15 am

Michael Flatt wrote:Michael,
Even simpler would be to post your protest on the Official ECF Forum. That costs nothing.
I think it unlikely that the number of people who read the ECF forum and do not read this one exceeds 30, and also unlikely that the number who read and write only to the ECF forum exceeds 5.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:22 am

Michael Farthing wrote: and also unlikely that the number who read and write only to the ECF forum exceeds 5.
It should be more than that, because ECF Directors consider themselves banned from posting here, but perhaps they read but don't reply. Mere officials have more leeway, and so far at least, have asserted their independence.

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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Michael Flatt » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:40 am

In run of things it is a pretty trivial dispute.

Stepping back one has to consider the wider issue of Governanceand whether the CEO has the authority to discipline a fellow Director. The Articles of Association do not confer that power on him.The Martin Regan approach (suggested elsewhere) of banging heads together and keeping the matter confidential and out of the Public domain was the pragmatic solution and has great merit.

All Directors are appointed by Council and it is intended that they cooperate and work together as a Board under the supervision of a Chairman.

The normal procedure to discipline a Director is by means of a vote of censure or a vote of no confidence. Should such a vote be carried an Extraordinary General Meeting would need to be convened to bring the matter to Council.

In other organisations Directors are appointed for longer terms and a fixed proportion of them retire in rotation and stand for reelection. Electing all Directors together for one year is idiotic. In Charities a Trustee will serve a three/four year term and possibly be barred from standing for a consecutive third or fourth term.

The primary benefit of appointing Directors for a longer term is that it provides stability and allows the Director to become established in his role. The Director of Home Chess carries enormous responsibility and after a single year it is doubtful that the incumbent will have attained a proper understanding of his role. After three years he might have just about become established.

A further point is whether it is justifiable for an existing member of the Board to stand against the current incumbent? The fact that he might do so demonstrates the lack of cooperation and cohesion between Board members. If such such a situation were to arise I would be very worried.
Last edited by Michael Flatt on Sun Sep 06, 2015 11:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Michael Farthing
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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Michael Farthing » Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:51 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Michael Farthing wrote: and also unlikely that the number who read and write only to the ECF forum exceeds 5.
It should be more than that, because ECF Directors consider themselves banned from posting here, but perhaps they read but don't reply. Mere officials have more leeway, and so far at least, have asserted their independence.
My point was precisely that nearly everyone who posts to the ECF forum actually also reads here. Within a few seconds of this topic starting a member of the ECF Board was browsing this forum. I am pleased to say that it was a Member of the Board that I particularly wanted to have sight of my post.

[Sorry, Carl, if this provokes a sudden increase in 'hiddens']

Bill Porter
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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Bill Porter » Sun Sep 06, 2015 11:34 am

Michael Flatt wrote: Even simpler would be to post your protest on the Official ECF Forum. That costs nothing.
The Official ECF Forum actively prevents archiving but does not admit or attempt to justify this Orwellian approach.

Therefor the protest could be modified or deleted, with only the memory of people who'd seen it to prove it had ever existed.

Screenshots etc can easily be faked but not archives.

The entire Official ECF Forum as a historical record can be modified or deleted virtually without trace i.e. it is merely propaganda.

Ironically the best indelible historical record of the English Chess Federation is this forum. Some posts have been deleted or modified for (usually) good reason but most live on in internet archives.

Perhaps this is why ECF directors etc are advised not to post on this forum.

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Re: Maladministration in the Handling of Complaints

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Sun Sep 06, 2015 1:37 pm

Mike Truran wrote:
The underlying issue is having a set of directors in place a number of whom refuse to work with other directors on a professional and collegiate basis.
A slightly unfair question but is this likely to find its way into the `public` (ie officials and insiders) domain next week?
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