Steve G.

Is Executive Session Overused or Abused in the LNC?

In Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Politics on November 13, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Well, George Donnelly made an attempt to find out.

He posted his results here.

But I’ll respectfully disagree with his findings, in part because of what happened to Angela Keaton in September, but also because of what happened to three other highly-respected Libertarians back before the 2008 LP National Convention. A report has come out that at the spring LNC meeting, in Executive Session (ES), Aaron Starr, Shane Cory, and M Carling were bashing BetteRose Ryan, Tony Ryan, and Michelle Poague because of Shotgun Willie’s co-sponsoring of the Convention in Denver.

Now, to be clear on the disclosure, I will quote myself from the past:

“I’ve known BetteRose Ryan for years. Ditto her husband, Tony, and her sister, Michelle Poague. I consider them my friends. They are great people, first class all around. BetteRose and Tony have both served the LP with distinction in both LPCO (BetteRose as state chair and predecessor to my state chair, John Berntson, Tony on the LPCO Board with me), and as LNC representatives (BetteRose as at-large, and Tony currently in a region). Michelle has also served on the LPCO Board in 2003-4. I was busy being a dad at that time as my son was born 4 days after the 2003 LPCO convention, which I helped organize, following the BetteRose “Cookbook” for conventions. I stepped down from the LPCO Board at that point for exactly that reason–parenting called.

“Shotgun Willie’s is the premiere club in Denver metro, in the unincorporated Glendale district. A lot of the girls there are LPCO activists, including Michelle. They co-sponsored the LPUS Convention. To Coloradoans, we know them as the “Glendale Ballet”, and they have been mainstays in the LPCO, especially at election night parties, for years.

“If the Starr Chamber is pissed over the Glendale Ballet at the LPUS Convention, then perhaps they ought to untwist their prude panties and go to a show. I’ve known that outfit for years; it’s high class, and they are regulars on the LPCO circuit–hell, an institution, even!–and not just for sex appeal either–some of them are bona fide party activists! That and BetteRose Ryan, Tony, and Michelle are all well-known as class acts bar none, which seems to be lost on the Starr Chamber, since they seem to lack it. The Glendale Ballet is what the LP is all about–free enterprise, free expression, and free minds and bodies.”

It should be noted that the “Cookbook” was used to make Denver as successful as it was.

This case illustrates a clear abuse of the Executive Session by the previous LNC.

But while that points out problems, the bigger question remains as to what the scope of the Executive Sessions should be. I’m not referring to what is written in the revered and until-recently mysterious LNC Policy Manual (of which I do have a current copy, thanks to Rachel Hawkbridge). I’m referring to general principles. I would posit that the answer to my own question is “Yes.”

In my own experience in both political and business management circles, the types of meetings that are Executive Sessions by any name tend to revolve around exactly two types of situations: personnel decisions and legal issues. 90% of all Party activities are neither of those; therefore Executive Session shouldn’t apply to them. That includes using Executive Session to bash longtime and well-respected Party members.

“So, Seebeck,” someone will undoubtedly snarkily ask, “How would you make it better?” I’m glad you asked.

In the case of the limited public meeting times the LNC has at present (different discussion), the use of ES should be even LESS than what it is. I’ll be the first to admit that a goal of no ES at the public meetings is not logical nor feasible. But, the ideals of minimal and proper use is not, and in fact should be the goal. Most ES issues can and should be resolved ahead of the public meetings. Doing so is not difficult, whether it be by a simple private email list, teleconference, videoconference, or something web-based such as Yahoo Messenger or NetMeeting. The LNC meetings are for the public membership as much as it is for anyone, and that focus should be respected.

As for the proper use, it should be noted that the bovine biosolids (I’m trying to be polite here!) that happened at the September LNC meeting were a direct result of improper use of the ES, both in the ES that Angela Twittered about and the subsequent ES where the attempt was made to expel her without giving her the chance to defend herself. LNC members are elected by the delegates, and they are not hired staff. As such, there is no personnel matter there that falls under ES purview, Policy Manual be damned. If the delegates decide to remove a LNC member, they can do so, and it is relatively easy for the LNC to ask the delegates to do so–all it takes is a delegate list and a mass mailing/emailing with a deadline attached. LNC Regional Representatives can already be recalled by their respective state affiliates. The LNC needs to remember that there is a huge difference between elected members and hired staff. HR can’t fire the Board of Directors; only the stockholders can. We, the delegates, are those stockholders.

Also, every person has the legal right to disclose any part of an ES that pertains directly to that person. It’s called an implicit waiver of confidentiality, and every person has that right in all cases.

So the solution for the LNC is rather simple to implement, once people get past the mental blocks of paranoid secrecy: Get most of the ES work done prior to the public meeting, and keep the scope limited to what it is supposed to be about and nothing more. They might even find the public meetings themselves are more productive uses of their time.

It’s that mental block thing that appears to be the problem.

On a related side note, I’m not certain if the BTP policy of no ES is the right answer, but I applaud them for trying it. Whether they succeed or not remains to be seen.

So, LP Bylaws Committee, here is your mission, should you choose to accept it: Propose a Bylaws change for St. Louis 2010 that makes elected LNC members removable from office only upon a 2/3 LNC vote on a resolution of the LNC to ask the delegates from the last convention to remove the member by a 2/3 delegate vote. The resolution should require a deadline to vote, and the ability to vote in a secure manner.

If the LNC plays that right, it can also serve as a model for secure voting to use elsewhere, like in regular elections, perhaps. That could be a nice political feather for the LP should they wisely choose to go that route.

In the meantime, LNC Chair Bill “Where’s My Gavel?” Redpath better rein in the improper use of, and entrance into, Executive Session. We The Delegates will be watching, especially next month.

One Final Note: All LP members are strongly encouraged to attend the next LNC meeting Dec 6-7 in San Diego. I know that quite a few are coming out for it. I will be there myself.

  1. won’t surprise seebeck to know that i’ve attended glendale ballet.

    20 yrs ago omg i’m old

  2. Well, maybe slightly…🙂

  3. But I’ll respectfully disagree with his findings

    Were there any findings (conclusions) to disagree with? All I found was that 9/10 LNC members are happy with their own use of executive session and that I am unable to explain the radically differing viewpoints expressed by the ten former and current LNC members.

    You may disagree with those 9 LNC members but that is different from disagreeing with my findings (conclusions).

  4. Err, 7/8 current LNC members are happy … etc

  5. My evidence is anecdotal. I suspect you may have run into a lot of “don’t rock the boat” diplomatic-type answers, which tend to cloud the issue.

    I would label the results more inconclusive because only a third responded.

    A broader question about the general use of ES posted to all 50 state boards might have generated a better sample space.

    But again, it’s my opinion. I’m not getting on your case at all. I have just seen a different picture.

  6. It is what it is. You’re reading more into what I wrote than what is actually there, though.

    You disagree with those 7/8 of LNCers who responded. Fine. Take it up with them.

    I look forward to your article with the results from postings to all 50 state boards.

  7. George, I didn’t say I was going to such a question. I’m saying it might have reveled better results. Please read carefully what I write. I choose the words I do for a reason.

    I didn’t read in more than what was there. I wrote that I disagreed with it because there definitely IS more than what was there.

  8. Is Executive Session Overused or Abused in the LNC? Well, George Donnelly made an attempt to find out.

    This is false.

    I only made the attempt to find out what LNC members think about their use of executive session.

    Big difference.

    I suspect you may have run into a lot of “don’t rock the boat” diplomatic-type answers

    There is no need to suspect or speculate. The exact words of 10 current and former LNC members are right there for you to read and judge for yourself.

    I would label the results more inconclusive because only a third responded.

    I said: “Frankly, I’m not sure how to reconcile the radically differing opinions of those who think everything is alright and those who think the LNC is being too secretive.”

    Which is another way of saying inconclusive.

    George, I didn’t say I was going to such a question. I’m saying it might have reveled better results. Please read carefully what I write.

    The implication of my words was a challenge to implement your suggestion for a better methodology.

    I choose the words I do for a reason.

    Me too.

    I wrote that I disagreed with it

    I’m still trying to figure out what I said that you disagree with. I simply can not find anything I said that you could disagree with.

    You disagree with those 7 LNCers who responded saying they were happy with their use of executive session, not me.

  9. I was going to go see the ballet, and was in fact told that we were going, but then the person who was going to take us didn’t manage to arrange it. There just wasn’t enough time in Denver.

    George did a pretty good job with his questions. I was disappointed to see that only about a third of us responded. I almost missed the message in the deluge of spam that I get on a daily basis.

    I believe that everyone needs to understand that there is a difference between being “happy” and believing that we are adhering to the rules and that the rules are appropriate. No one should ever be “happy” when there is a need to use executive session.

    It would be nice to never have to use executive session. That would be a “happy” situation. Unfortunately, “happy” is not reality. You never see members of the LNC smiling and laughing when leaving executive session. It is not used to discuss “happy” issues.

  10. Uh, George, your original question #2 specifically asked if it was overused:

    “Do you think that LNC executive session is overused (i.e., used for topics not explicitly named for its use in the LNC Policy Manual)?”

    So my statement was true.

    My comment about diplomatic “don’t rock the boat” answers is pretty apparent from looking the answers.

    And you didn’t call it inconclusive at all. In fact, in your original, you said:

    “The consensus of those current LNC members who responded – with the notable exception of Angela Keaton – is that they’re happy with their current use of executive session, and don’t want to change anything.”

    That “consensus” seems pretty conclusive to me. And that is the conclusion I disagree with, because I feel that with ES being a hot topic at the moment within the LNC since September, there is a distinct desire by those on the LNC (except Angela) to avoid the subject or handle it with kid gloves. And my own source also has information to the contrary, which I noted above.

    In any case, we agree to disagree. Whether the LNC notices that people are actually paying attention to it remains to be see in San Diego.

  11. Stewart, I am not questioning George’s questions. I too am disappointed in the lack of response to legitimate questions by an LP member by the non-responding leadership, as it sends the wrong impression.

    However, I think you miss my point as well, which is that proper planning and foresight before the public meetings would minimize the need for them, and that the overuse and abuse comes from both that lack of planning and foresight, but also from a distinct lack of good policy and it being properly enforced. That comes from having an ineffective chair, among other things. That’s why I think questions #3 and 4 are important, because from my POV they seem to imply the membership perceives there is a problem. And the membership definitely DOES perceive there is a problem.

  12. Mr. Donnelly’s article was one of the best things written on internal LP matters in quite some time. With all the rumor-spreading that goes on, it was nice to see a committed libertarian diligently produce a well-researched, objective report.

    If I was on the LNC, I would want to use executive session as sparingly as possible.

  13. Uh, George, your original question #2 specifically asked if it was overused

    That question was made to LNC members. Again, I was attempting to find out if THEY THINK it is overused.

    That is different from finding out if it is (objectively) overused. I’m certain you are capable of distinguishing the difference.

    That “consensus” seems pretty conclusive to me. And that is the conclusion I disagree with

    So you disagree that 7/8 current LNC members who responded are happy with their use of executive session?

    All of their words are right there on the page and I don’t see any of those 7 expressing any significant criticism of their own use of executive session.

    You disagree with the LNC members own estimation of their use of executive session. Again, there is a big difference.

    lack of response to legitimate questions by an LP member by the non-responding leadership, as it sends the wrong impression

    I’m inclined to believe the right impression has been made, namely that few LNCers either want to go on the record about their use of executive session or want to dignify questions from a member, donor and blogger with answers.

  14. Peter, all I did was slap together other people’s words, but thank you.🙂

  15. Exactly, George, you asked them if they think it was overused. You can’t sit there and spin it to say you didn’t by trying to call a subjective term like “overused” objective. That’s a Holtzism.

    And I do disagree with it, because, being the hyper-cynic that I am, everyone had their own agenda there, yes, even you and me, and a lot of theirs is going along with the flow, which clouds their answers. Angela’s yes answer gave specific examples, which is a stark contrast. Lark tried to, but he got lost in his own ramble.

    And while it may be a fact that the consensus of those responded all responded the same way, it is only one piece of the bigger picture that I look at, and I don’t like what I see.

    As for this:

    “I’m inclined to believe the right impression has been made, namely that few LNCers either want to go on the record about their use of executive session or want to dignify questions from a member, donor and blogger with answers.”

    It may the correct impression made (we agree on that), but it certainly isn’t a right one. (And I’m not splitting technical hairs there. It does make the wrong impression!).

    And that is the biggest problem of all.

    Don’t get me wrong, George, you did good work. I’m suggesting that the conclusions you arrived at from the limited sample are not exactly what you think they are, and that they are just another indication of the bigger problem, which is certain circles of the LNC are not responsive to, and possibly even contemptuous of, the membership they work for. You found a symptom of the disease from a different angle.

  16. Exactly, George, you asked them if they think it was overused. You can’t sit there and spin it to say you didn’t by trying to call a subjective term like “overused” objective.

    Huh? You claim I tried to find out if executive session is (objectively) abused. I only tried to find out what LNCers think on this question. Big difference.

    I’m suggesting that the conclusions you arrived at from the limited sample are not exactly what you think they are

    My lone conclusion is:

    The consensus of those current LNC members who responded – with the notable exception of Angela Keaton – is that they’re happy with their current use of executive session, and don’t want to change anything.

    How, precisely, is this “not exactly what [I] think [it is]”?

    Are you saying those 7 current LNCers are lying? That I am unable to read or comprehend what they have written?

    I still have no clue what it is that I said that you disagree with. I guess that will have to remain a mystery.

  17. Mike, glad to see you’re finally posting. Can you fill us in more on the use of ExSess to bash activists?

  18. ENM, check the link in the original post, which goes to my blog, and in there is another link to check out as well.

  19. For the record, I thought George did a very good job on his article.

  20. Mike,

    Planning for LNC meetings is like trying to play darts blindfolded. There are too many last minute changes to the agenda.

    Changes are sometimes due to events that can’t be controlled. But more often, events at the meeting cause a domino effect on the schedule and we find ourselves in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday with members leaving to catch flights.

    My only personal gripe with LNC meeting planning is that not all members of the committee plan their travel schedule to allow them to be present for the entire meeting. Doing so may mean either arriving home late at night or possibly the next day. That’s part of the job we take on when elected to the LNC and all members should honor their committment.

    Do party members perceive that there is a problem? I’m sure that many do. Unfortunately, the problem that they perceive is not the real problem. And regardless of what “side” someone is on, most members only hear part of the facts, and come to incorrect conclusions.

    I’m extremely glad to see that a number of people are planning to attend next month’s meeting. The budget meeting following elections is probably the most important meeting of the next two years. This is when we will set the direction of our internal operations and we need to make the right decisions.

    As I recall, the budget meeting two years ago had only one member of the party present to watch. I’d rather have these decisions made with a larger audience.

  21. Stewart, that’s bullshit.

    I have been on a state board where members had to drive 5 hours over snowy and icy mountain passes to make MONTHLY meetings. The chair always had an agenda published publicly a week beforehand and we stuck to it, and there was always the ability to amend or adjust as things happened. It’s the planning in advance that matters and is what makes it go smoothly with few adjustments. ANY good leader knows that.

    And the lack of responses themselves indicates the bigger problem–you complain about members not hearing “the other side of the story”, yet when asked to give it, two-thirds don’t take the opportunity given them to reply? That doesn’t square with a responsive leadership at all. If we ask and are ignored, then what in the bloody hell are we supposed to think?

    As for the travel plans, the LNC members agreed to attending the meeting when they agreed to serve. Apparently it is not a problem for some but it is for others. Well, then perhaps the problem is the LNC members who do not want to be inconvenienced by being there for the duration. Leaving early for travel is only an excuse in a personal emergency. In other words, the commitment has been made, so honor it!

    This is basic 001 stuff, Stewart: planning, consistency, and sticking to one’s word.

    I would expect that from the elected leadership of the party. So does every single member.

  22. And yes, I know other LNC members lurk. My comments are directed at them.

    I thank Stewart for having the honor and sense of responsibility to speak to the membership. I apologize if it seems like I’m getting on his case. I’m not, and I do not mean to create the impression of “killing the messenger”.

    I just hope the others get the message.

  23. Well…first of all I’m not a messenger. Regardless of what some have claimed in the past about my posting here and on other sites, I do not confer with anyone before writing. I’m also not on some assignment to lurk here and elsewhere (as one LNC member seems to think). So messenger? Nope.

    But I do agree that some of what we do is bs. I simply gave my observation that it was like playing darts blindfolded. Anyone who likes playing darts blindfolded is either crazy or has it in for either themselves or whoever might be in the room and get hit by the darts. Too many members ask to have things added to the agenda at meetings. If there isn’t time, then there isn’t time. If you can’t think of it two weeks in advance (emergencies excepted) then it must not be important enough to discuss.

    I can say that it was much worse when I first started on the LNC. We’ve been much better in the past year or so and the agenda has actually been completed on occasion.

    I know that this is an unpopular opinion, but I’d prefer to meet four times a year instead of three. We’d get more done and possibly operate with less pressure.

    I also know that I’ll get flack for saying this, but I disagree with the members (including LNC members) who’ve been bashing the chairman publicly. Contrary to what they say, he is not doing a bad job. He’s had to deal with several highly contentious situations and had managed them better than many others would have been able to do.

    Ok…so you’ll say that’s more bs. My pre-answer to that is your muther! 🙂

  24. The LNC should be meeting monthly or every two months, even if it is by teleconference only or in a blasted chat room. Technology has made geography irrelevant, and the LNC should utilize it. Fewer meetings create more pressure on the ones you have, and more lessen that pressure.

    Agendas should be publicly posted in advance for all to see.

    Redpath showed great incompetence in how he ran Denver. Contrast that with the parts of the session Chuck ran and the difference is quite telling. Proper leadership starts with good communication and organization skills. A lot of us have yet to see much of either from him, which is why he couldn’t even get re-elected on the first ballot. His actions since then in being unable to rein in Cory and Kraus further prove the point.

    That’s the basic issue: the seeming lack of transparency and fundamental leadership activities that should be done. ES is just a symptom of the disease.

  25. And the lack of responses themselves indicates the bigger problem–you complain about members not hearing “the other side of the story”, yet when asked to give it, two-thirds don’t take the opportunity given them to reply? That doesn’t square with a responsive leadership at all. If we ask and are ignored, then what in the bloody hell are we supposed to think?

    I could not agree more. I gave them nearly 2 mos in which to reply. I only sent one email, so it may have been lost in some people’s spam folders, but I did email Secretary Sullentrup many times about many issues and not once did he take he trouble to reply to me. I know he received at least one of my inquiries, because he acted on it; without however replying to me.

  26. Bob Sullentrup seems to be overwhelmingly busy any given day of the week. It’s likely that he just never had time. Admittedly, try though I might, even I neglect to respond to something here or there that I’d like to respond to, because I end up putting it off to take care of the “must-dos” right away and it ends up being forgotten. There’s no reason for folks to make the jump to attributing a lack of respond to malice or some sort of shady conspiracy.

  27. Matt, He has LP staff to assist. Plus, he has shown a propensity for a lousy attitude in the past. Remember, it was his idea to start destroying meeting tapes and promoting a lack of good recordkeeping. He was elected. he has no excuses. Hell, even my Congressman, as lousy as he is, returns my calls and notes.

    Contrast that to Beau Cain, the LPCA Secretary, who is a genuine workhorse, and is just as busy, with little volunteer staff, but he always has the time to answer any questions immediately and is always a courteous and nice guy.

    I’d rather have ten Beaus to one Bob.

  28. Matt, I did not attribute lack of response “to malice or some sort of shady conspiracy”.

    I’m simply saying that I gave LNCers plenty of time in which to respond. I especially gave Mr Sullentrup copious opportunities in which to respond.

    Shortly after questioning him about the statement on the lp.org leadership page about fundraising being an important part of an LNC member’s jobs – which has no basis in bylaws or policy manual – it was removed. So there was time for that, but no time to acknowledge any of my inquiries.

    The Secretary is the key to LNC transparency, since he has the access and responsibility necessary to implement multiple transparency measures. If we can’t get any response out of him, the situation is dire indeed.

  29. I’d like to add as a side note that those LP staff members I contacted while researching this article responded to me very quickly and in a complete, professional and courteous manner.

  30. George, I’m certainly not saying that you attributed anything to malice. I am saying that any given reader should not. It’s a genuinely hard job. I was in Denver, and Bob never got to have any fun because he was always busy.

    If people wish to criticize the job that Sullentrup does, how come no one ran against him for his position in Denver?

    One interesting thing to note is that people are going to be people. If they want to bash activists, they can do so after everyone’s left, with or without an executive session in play. As far as I see things, there isn’t really a legitimate gripe about executive sessions, as anything that folks have alleged to have gone on in them could just as easily be done without them, but also when others aren’t around. If there was something really naughty being hidden here, why would the evil perpetrators of such things do it in executive sessions? Why not just do it, you know, later on after the meeting when no one is even looking?

  31. If people wish to criticize the job that Sullentrup does, how come no one ran against him for his position in Denver?

    Good question. I’ve been wondering this, too. He’s gotten free passes in ’04, ’06 and ’08.

    Someone needs to run against him in ’10 if only to promote a discussion on greater transparency.

    there isn’t really a legitimate gripe about executive sessions, as anything that folks have alleged to have gone on in them could just as easily be done without them, but also when others aren’t around

    When LNC members are in session, they constitute the leadership of our party. As members, we deserve an honest accounting of what happens at those meetings. If executive session is being abused, then we are not getting that.

    Several current or former respected LNC members allege that executive session is being abused. How can one not take that seriously?

  32. Why did no one run against him? Beats me. I never understood why it was an elected position in the first place. IMO It should be hired Administrative Staff answering to the ED and LNC, not elected. Ditto Treasurer.

    And George is exactly right. The allegations need to be taken seriously.

  33. Interesting idea about hiring for those 2 positions.

    There’s a certain amount of tradition behind electing them.

    Definitely something to think about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: