Thursday, 17 May 2007

Red State, Blue State

The ACT Chess Association AGM was held last night (16th May). Now I know chess politics is increadibly boring, even for those involved, so I'll keep it brief.
The meeting was held at the Canberra Chess Club premises. I haven't been there previously, but it is incredibly noisy, making a lot of the meeting discussion hard to follow. I can understand why it was considered an inappropriate venue for the ACT Chess Championship, but I can't see how it is a suitable venue for any chess tournament.
Dr Stepehen Mugford, chief organiser of the 2006-07 Australian Open, stood for election for the position of ACTCA President. As a number of executive members were standing down, Stephen felt that now was the time to inject some new blood, and new ideas, into ACT Chess. Unfortunately Stephen had a previous business commitment interstate last night and could not attend in person, but his nomination was accepted in his absence.
I read a statement on his behalf laying out his experience in management, both in sports and in business. I also informed the meeting of Stephens success in attracting sponsorship to chess activities in Canberra ($20,000+ in the last year), something that Stephen was too modest to state himself.
Incumbent President Mos Ali was also nominated. Sadly he started his case for re-election by smearing his opponent, and only stopped when challenged by an outraged member of the audience. He defended his approach by indicating that in an election, "anything goes".
A paper ballot was used for the election and at the close of counting the vote was tied 13-13. After some confusion Mos Ali used what I believe to be his casting vote to re-elect himself as President.
The rest of the meeting was somewhat of an anti-climax with the positions of Vice-President and Secretary filled unopposed, the position of Treasurer left vacant when no one was nominated, and the Junior Rep position filled by a reluctant Shun Ikeda.


Phil Bourke said...

Did Stephen get to cast his vote by proxy?
Not sure if the President has a casting vote in this situation. My previous experience of tied votes between 2 contestants is that it is a draw from the hat that decides the outcome.

Anonymous said...

I'm certain there is no casting vote at an AGM for a legally incorporated entity. There needs to be a draw from a hat, otherwise the election is unconstitutional. A reconvened Special General Meeting needs to be held asap only for that purpose.

Shaun Press said...

The ACTCA Constitution doesn't allow for proxy voting, so Stephen wasn't able to vote (something he knew in advance).
I had suggested to the returning officer that he either draw a name from the hat, or hold a re-vote (as there had been at least 1 abstention). In then end neither suggestion was followed.

Anonymous said...

The actual position was that Mos voted only once and I think it is not properly described as a casting vote. It was not announced as such. I was closer to the front than Shaun and I heard what was being said. (I agree about the noise.) Mos' vote was, in effect his deliberative vote.

A matter of greater concern is that a reasonably representative part of the Canberra chess community is almost equally divided. It also seems that, unlike a similar situation two years ago, this situation is in part a spin-off from the split in late 2005 of the Canberra Chess Club. Ironically, I feel that, if Shaun instead of Stephen had stood again (he stood in 2005) there is every possibility that Mos would not have been re-elected. Stephen's track record as a chess administrator is pretty threadbare and the ability to raise $20000 in sponsorship is no substitute for the ability to run a sound organisation.

Denis Jessop

Shaun Press said...

The election was run as a secret ballot where members were required to write the name of the candidate they were voting for. The votes were then collected and counted.
As a scrutineer I saw the count end in a 13-13 tie. Now there was no re-vote, and no declaration that the voting was to be re-opened. so I am not sure how someone who did not vote in a properly constituted election got to have their vote added to the count after the close of voting.

Libby said...

I really wasn't planning to weigh in on this (retired as I am) but I wonder what to take from this ...

"Stephen's track record as a chess administrator is pretty threadbare and the ability to raise $20000 in sponsorship is no substitute for the ability to run a sound organisation."

The ability to raise sponsorship seems a skill sorely lacking in Australian chess generally but it's quite correct that it's not the be-all-and-end-all of administration.

But this assessment would suggest a requirement to cast an equivalent eye over the contribution of the other candidate. What Stephen had to offer was only his professional expertise, his threadbare resume in chess administration and the capacity to attract sponsorship. And this was insufficient because the alternative candidate offered ...

Surely a part of the story is missing for Stephen's potential contribution to be so dismissed?


Kevin Bonham said...

This does sound very odd based on Shaun's and Denis's description. Although the eventual 14-13 was the correct result of a vote of those present, it should have been reached by everyone eligible to vote (including Ali) voting at the same time, rather than by Ali withholding his vote until a tie needed to be broken. It should have been made clear that Ali was entitled to vote and did so if he wished to before the votes were counted.

In many organisations, the chair has a vote cast after a tie (a casting vote); sometimes such chairs have deliberative votes as well. Some chairs have deliberative votes but not casting votes (ie any tied motion is lost). But these conventions do not apply to elections for many reasons:

Firstly, the chair, if also a candidate, has a conflict of interest, so it is normal for their power to be delegated to a non-candidate returning officer, who fills a chair-type role in conducting the election. So giving the incumbent President a casting vote of any kind when they're not actually chairing that particular matter is incorrect.

Secondly the purpose of casting votes in organisations that don't give the chair a deliberative vote is to give the chair an impression of impartiality by reducing the number of matters they have to be seen taking a particular side on. But in a secret vote, their vote is not known anyway.

Thirdly, an election simply isn't a motion. Compare the well-known case of John Gorton voting himself out of office - in that case he was not voting on an election, but on a motion of confidence in his own leadership.

It sounds to me like it is most comparable, in effect if not intention, to a casting vote in an organisation in which the chairman lacks a deliberative vote.

I doubt this would all be grounds for a successful challenge of any kind though as a lenient view is generally taken of procedural errors so long as the natural outcome is not affected.

This post expresses my own views only and not those of any organisation.

TrueFiendish said...

"Stephen's track record as a chess administrator is pretty threadbare"

He sounds perfect.

What does Mos have to say about all this? Surely the entire matter should be clarified.

Does provisions exist for a revote? A vote of no confidence?

Forgive me, Shaun, but as a scrutineer surely you had the obligation or at least the right investigate how the final decision was reached.

TrueFiendish said...

Shaun, having read your entry regarding conversing with contributors, I should inform you that TrueFiendish is none other than Ashley Oakes, sometime Canberra chessplayer and troublemaker.