American Politics: Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Edition

If you thought that mud-slinging and partisan electioneering in the current American Presidential election was cut-throat, you might raise an eye brow or two over the recent events involving the  hotly contested seat for the North American Branch Trustee position for the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (of which I am a Member).

Here is an email that I recently received from Mr. Anthony Abrahams, Director General of CIArb:

Dear Mr Pribetic

Americas Trustee Election

As you are aware, the election for the Americas trustee is currently underway.  Electioneering has been undertaken by both candidates in a novel manner.  The result has been accusations being raised on a tit for tat basis which is both unfortunate and unnecessary.  I had asked both candidates to avoid controversial electioneering so that the Institute as a whole can consider the issues away from the heat of an ongoing election.  Specifically, I hope that this can be raised at Congress next month with a view to a protocol being written in due course.

Unfortunately, the trustee election continues to raise the temperature to the extent that the US Presidential election quite clearly is of secondary importance.

Specifically there are two matters of concern:-

a)    The North America Branch Executive Committee proposed to endorse one of the two candidates.  They were advised that this would potentially contravene our constitution and create difficulties.  However, advice was also given that there was nothing to prevent individuals from canvassing on behalf of a candidate.  Following that advice the Executive Committee rejected the resolution that one candidate should be endorsed to the exclusion of the other; and

b)    Whether the incumbent trustee has abused his position in some way when it emerged that a number of members had not received the ballot information.

As to the first concern, following the determination of the Executive Committee, individual members of the committee wrote to North America Branch members endorsing a candidate.  In signing the email communication, they each specified their position as officers or members of the North America Branch Committee.  Whilst one might argue that this does not cross the line, it is certainly very near the knuckle.

Further, a number of officers and members of the committee have again, despite my concerns having been voiced to them, sent out a direct email endorsing a candidate, referring to their position as part of their signature block.  It is not clear that such an endorsement is being made as an individual as opposed to on the basis of their position within the North America Branch Committee.  Most would view this as unacceptable.

As to the second concern, I immediately asked the incumbent trustee to desist from contacting members regarding this topic as clearly it was a matter for the Executive.

I think that it is important to set out the basis of the duties of a charity trustee as expressed in an email to those concerned:

To date elections have been held in a low key manner. Indeed electioneering has been frowned upon. I will ask Tony to forward to you a copy of the email sent to Whit early in the election process setting out the position. In essence the election is to the appointment of a Trustee of a charity, with the fiduciary duties to the Institute as a whole and not to a position as a representative of a specific group on an executive. The ‘knocking’ style of electioneering and manifestos promising to deliver benefits to a single part of the global organisation does not sit well with the duties of a charity trustee to the Institute which are rather wider.

I appreciate that this is a first and that it does raise the question as to whether an election protocol should be prepared. I would suggest that such a debate should take place in the calmer waters outside an election, perhaps for Congress in November. In the meantime I must ask that you bring to a close the more personal approach to the election until a proper policy can be debated. Please bear in mind that whoever is or becomes the elected trustee will be required to work for the good of the whole of CIArb including NAB and may, for the good of the whole, have to make decisions that are contentious in the eyes of NAB.

In summary, I call upon the candidates not to abuse their respective positions and I call upon their supporters to canvass on a purely personal basis without reference to any position or office that they hold within CIArb.

I also urge all members to vote in the election.  In deciding who to favour, please read the manifestos of the candidates and make up your own mind as to which individual will best undertake the role of a charity trustee.

Anthony Abrahams

Director General

Phew! Glad there are no SuperPacs. This could get ugly.

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