This past Thursday (1 Feb) many in the U.S. handball community got a bit of a surprise in their inbox, in the form of a resignation letter from the now former USA Team Handball (USATH) Board of Directors (BoD) President, Dr. Harvey Schiller. Dr. Schiller, easily the highest profile Board Director USATH has ever had thanked everyone for their support and noted that he believed it was “best to now bring in new leadership including capable board members to meet the challenges ahead.” Board Member and 1984 Olympian Bob Djokovich has stepped in as the interim Board President for the next 60 days.
The surprises, however, did not stop there as the January 18 BoD Meeting Minutes that were also provided included a lengthy section highlighting upcoming Board elections. I like to think that I’m a pretty sharp guy, but I’ll have to admit that I struggled to decipher all of the information contained.
Fortunately, I was able to get a hold of Mike Lenard on the phone in Korea where he is supporting the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. We discussed the board minutes and the existing bylaws and he was able to clarify for me the upcoming election process. From my perspective, here are the key points:
- The underlying issue is the conflicting language regarding BoD terms and elections in the current federation bylaws. Mike has worked on a volunteer basis to update the bylaws to address these and other issues and it is still an ongoing effort. 4 Board Member seats are past due for an election and 3 others will be due for an election in the near future.
- There are a number of ways that this current situation could be resolved, but the crux of the matter is that 7 of the 9 board members have been serving on the board longer than 4 years, the standard term length. (The 2 Athlete Representative positions (David Thompson and Sarah Gascon) were recently elected and their terms will not expire until 2021.)
- Mike Lenard proposed a couple of options and the one the board decided to have him further flesh out would be to have 3 elections as soon as possible (with 2 for new terms and 1 to replace Dr Schiller for the remainder of his term) and 4 elections later this year. He is now working on more detailed procedures that will then be provided to the board for a vote to incorporate in the By-laws.
- The near term election will be for 3 Independent Board members and the election later this year will be for 3 Independent Board Members and 2 General Membership Board Members. (The seat formerly held by Dr Schiller will be elected both in the near term and later this year.)
- The different board positions will be clearly identified in terms of their term length. It is also desired that terms be staggered with 4 or 5 board seats having their terms expire every 2 years.
- Each class of Board Membership has a distinctly different electorate.
- Athlete Representatives are elected by athletes who have represented the U.S. in international competition within the last ten years. (The exact requirements for this electorate may be tweaked)
- General Membership Board Members are elected by members in good standing with USA Team Handball. This will likely be an election later this year similar to the one that was held in 2013 which saw the election of Jennie Choi and Attila Agoston to the Board. The current by-laws indicate that only “athlete members” can run and vote in the election for this position, but it’s been proposed that this be modified to allow any member in good standing to run for the board.
- Independent Board Members are “elected” by the Nominating & Governance Committee. This committee has 5 members and their responsibilities also include identifying and interviewing potential board members. While it is technically an election in reality it is more likely to be a collaborative selection process by the committee.
- The current members of the Nominating & Governance Committee are Tom Fitzgerald (Chair), Cindy Stringer and Dennis Berkholtz. The current BoD will need to confirm these members and add two new members.
So, that’s the “nuts and bolts”, as I see it, in terms of process that USA Team Handball will be using for the upcoming Board elections. I should emphasize, though, that nothing has been formally approved yet by the Board. As, I hear further developments I will post them.
Current USA Team Handball Board of Directors: Link