USACA has failed to honor its fundamental obligation to hold an election by November 30, 2011. It must do it immediately and formulate a way forward that is independent of the ongoing compliance process.
By Venu Palaparthi
[Views expressed in this article are the author's and not those of any organizations that he represents.]
I deeply care about and fully understand the importance of compliance having been responsible for the compliance function for a good part of my career. Perhaps more germane, I have written expressing my views on membership issues several times for this website - a column on proportionate voting appeared on September 19, 2009 and the second article about league qualifications was published on March 19, 2011.
Over the years, we have been gifted many reasons to be skeptical about the way things are done in United States cricket. But as a community, we have either tolerated or chosen to be complacent so far. The latest decision by the board, giving themselves another three months for the compliance review before holding an election, has left me shell-shocked.
In this column, I will start off with my recommendations and then explain why I have lost confidence in the board's stated intention to hold an election in three months.
1) USACA should hold the elections without delay. All paid-up full member leagues should be asked to sign a statement under penalty of perjury, attesting to the following basic minimum qualfications contained in the USACA constitution (a) their league has at least eight (8) clubs or teams, each club or team comprising at least fifteen (15) players who play according to a published schedule, and (b) the cricket is played in accordance with the Laws of Cricket established by MCC and Playing Conditions established by ICC, by definition that means outdoors and with a hard ball.
Consequences of perjury should be severe - suspension for two or three years from USACA membership for the signer and the league.
The leagues that sign such a statement should be allowed to vote, provided they meet two additional requirements contained in the constitution. Firstly, the league was already approved by USACA as a full member, which means it should have undergone a period of one year as a provisional league. Secondly, the league meets the constitutional requirement for financial eligibility and good standing, which means it does not owe USACA any membership dues.
It is important to note that if a league was delinquent on their 2011 payment and is willing to pay a reasonable USACA imposed penalty, then it should be allowed to pay up and also vote. This is allowed under the constitution.
2) The compliance process must continue unhindered to its logical conclusion and a culture of compliance must be supported by any new regime. The expectation should be that each league follows USACA's policies, directives and decisions. Upon review of the results of the survey, if a league is found to need compliance assistance, then such assistance must be provided. If punitive steps are needed, such steps should be taken.
3) Present constitutional safeguards including the complaint process and the recall process provide the electorate with protections against abuse of the right to vote.
Why has the election process lost its footing?
The mirage - Every time USACA announces a date or a timeline, you should expect that it will get postponed. That is par for the course. But this election has had more than its usual share of plot twists. Here is a chronology, in case you forgot.
"Stay of all elections until this process is completed" - On July 28, 2011, USACA President Gladstone Dainty wrote that the USACA compliance review would be turned over to a capable third party "within the next few days" with the expectation that all USACA leagues and officials will cooperate to the fullest. This followed the stalling of the results of the Atlantic Region Cricket Board election. At the time of Dainty's intervention, the USACA website had already published an election date of October 15 for the national election. In any event, over a month went by before we heard anything more on this topic.
Elections to be held during the first week of November - On September 13, 2011, in a meeting at the invitation of the New York Cricket Region, President Dainty reportedly said that that the elections were more likely to be held during the first week of November and a discussion apparently ensued about the likelihood of that occurring.
"Assist your league in analyzing..." - On September 15, 2011, in a letter to the league presidents, the attorney conducting the compliance review wrote that the prinicpal objective of the review "is to improve the overall operations and administration and to help strengthen and safeguard the operational and fiscal integrity of USACA. Therefore, the goal of the Compliance Review is to assist your league in analyzing how well it organizes, communicates, documents and evaluates its efforts at complying with the USACA Constitution and requirements." He further noted that, "The Final Compliance Report will indentify any additional recommendations and/or corrective actions that should be taken by the Board."
A 'thoughtful' exercise - On September 18, 2011, USACA issued a press release announcing that it had retained the services of an independent attorney to conduct a compliance audit of the leagues. USACA did not mention even once that it would impact the elections. The words 'vote,' 'elections' or 'eligibility' were avoided. It was portrayed as a 'thoughtful and collaborative' exercise. "The league can focus on areas to improve, and for the parent organization, data is readily available for all its statutory and governance filings," one member was quoted as saying. The release said that the audit's targeted completion was two to four weeks.
Elections MUST be held by December 21 according to the schedule - On October 22, 2011, USACA noted in a media release that it had appointed an attorney "to conduct a Compliance Review of all USACA Leagues prior to the commencement of the regional and then the national organizations board." Even if a person completed that sentence to make sense of it, the intention was to conduct a review prior to the commencement of an election. That is very different from insisting that every league is fully compliant before conducting an election. In fact, USACA promised that it would hold elections before December 2011, even invoking the magic words "ICC compliance" in its release: "It is important for ICC compliance that the elections for regional boards and a new USACA board are completed, in the correct sequence before the end of December 2011." It further noted that "All regions must hold elections following the compliance review to the schedule below." According to the release, the regional elections were to be completed by November 19.
Weather delay - On November 10, 2011, apparently in response to requests from the leagues in the North East area affected by 'recent weather conditions,' the regional elections were postponed to November 22 from the original date of November 19, 2011.
"Systemic failure" - In an undated memo posted on the USACA website on November 16, 2011, the attorney wrote that it was important to give each league the opportunity to provide missing information and that the failure to provide all the information "makes it impossible to complete the compliance review process in advance of the upcoming regional elections." He requested that the regional elections be rescheduled. No new dates were suggested. There was still no indication that the regional elections would be delayed beyond November 30, 2011.
Three months and 66% - In a meeting of the USACA board held by conference call on December 3, 2011, to review the status of the compliance audit, as feared by many in the USA cricket community, the board awarded itself a three-month extension.
In a summary note posted to the USACA website, USACA noted that the board voted by a large majority to adopt the following recommendation of the attorney: "Provide help and assistance to the leagues wanting to comply with the USACA Constitution and run the elections when a majority of leagues, ideally at least 66%, are compliant. This could be done in around three months or less."
Scope creep - USACA's embrace of compliance is a welcome change. President Dainty noted in the USACA press release dated September 19, 2011, that "USACA started the process of compliance a couple of years ago to ensure that all our member leagues and regions were complying with USACA’s Constitution, ICC membership rules and both US Federal and State laws." We all appreciate the President's call for a culture of compliance. But if we have already spent a couple of years on this topic, then I don't think three months are going to guarantee closure.
My point is - Full compliance is a goal, but elections have a date. USACA, until its most recent pronouncement, used the election as a tool to encourage leagues to submit information, while continuing to suggest that the election will be held by year-end. Now, it is explicitly making full compliance a pre-condition for an election.
Holier than thou - While insisting that leagues comply with "the USACA Constitution" and USACA directives and policies, USACA is itself not complying with the constitution. As a reminder, Article XXI of the constitution says "Elections shall be held no later than November 30 of each electoral year consistent with the electoral cycle, except that in the year 2007, elections shall be held thirty (30) days after the ratification of this constitution."
Financial controls, youth and women's programs figure prominently among the requirements that the independent attorney has laid out for the leagues. Is USACA able to demonstrate competent financial controls and sound fiscal management? Does it have a formal youth development program? A women's program? In fact, as recently as September 25, 2011, USACA Treasurer John Thickett admitted that the national body 'was not setting the best example for the regions to follow when it comes to sound fiscal management.'
The other 34% - It is even more surprising that the USACA board signed off on running an election when "a majority of the leagues, ideally at least 66% are compliant. This could be done in around three months or less." Why is compliance by only a majority of leagues acceptable? Why is 66% ideal? I would like to read this for what it is - not now, maybe later.
Where is this stuff in the constitution? - While I wholeheartedly support youth cricket and women's cricket, I find it intriguing that USACA is now asking leagues to meet 'requirements' that the constitution makes no mention of in the context of leagues in order for them to become eligible to vote.
As an example, one of the nine requirements that the attorney has listed which "the league must meet in order to be certified as eligible to vote" is that "the league has implemented, or is willing to start to implement, a formal women's development program."
Having read the constitution many times, I am yet to find a single article or section in the USACA constitution that calls for a league to meet such a requirement in order to be eligible to vote. The subject of women's cricket is a regional and national subject and not yet a league requirement as envisioned in the constitution. For your benefit, I have attached at the bottom of this article (see Note below), all the sections that discuss women's cricket.
In summary, I feel that USACA has failed to honor its fundamental obligation to hold an election by November 30, 2011. It must conduct an election immediately while continuing to promote a culture of compliance.
Article II (Objectives of USACA): To foster the development of the sport at all levels including youth and women's cricket.
Article XIII Section 1 (Regional Administration): Each Regional Administration shall consist of the respective league presidents or a designated representative from each league and four (4) other individuals elected by a majority vote of the members of the Regional Administration, of which at least one (1) shall be deemed the Youth Development Coordinators, and one (1) shall be the Women’s Cricket Coordinator. The others shall be deemed to be Members-at-Large.
Article XIII Section 15 (Regional Administration): To be in compliance and maintain appropriate member status, each Region shall implement Youth and Women’s programs no later than the summer of 2015.
Article XIV Section 1.v (Rights and Obligations of the Regions): Create programs to foster and develop cricket within each region
including youth and women’s cricket. Such programs shall include but is not limited to, school programs, after-school programs and youth club programs.
Article XIV Section 1.vi (Rights and Obligations of the Regions): Select coordinators who shall be directly in charge of the development of cricket within that region and who shall work closely with state and local governments to promote the growth of youth and women’s cricket.
Article XIV Section 1.vii (Rights and Obligations of the Regions): Submit quarterly reports and recommendations to the USACA Board
regarding the development of Youth and Women’s cricket and programs which require the assistance, authority and funding from USACA.
Article XIV Section 1.viii (Rights and Obligations of the Regions): Work closely with the CEO and/or his staff to advance and develop
Youth and Women cricket on a national level.
Article XIV Section 3 (Rights and Obligations of the Regions): Failure of any region to implement, promote, develop and maintain an active youth and women cricket program shall result in the loss of funding from USACA and the right to participate in USACA sponsored events or any other sanctions as outlined in this Constitution.