EGM Resolutions: my take

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Russ Garrett

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Jan 2, 2016, 10:48:44 AM1/2/16
to London Hack Space
I've stayed quiet about the EGM until now, and I will not comment on
the controversial resolutions to remove members and directors, however
I think I owe it to the organisation to provide my opinions on the
other proposed resolutions.

This is my personal opinion on what would be best for London Hackspace
based on my experience as a trustee over the last 6 years. I also aim
to provide some context to the reasons behind these resolutions,
because they haven't really been discussed on this list.

As chair I will remain neutral when it comes to handling the debate
and voting (although I may speak in favour or against them at the
meeting). As trustee I am happy to carry out whatever the membership
votes for.


= Special Resolution 4: Increasing the size of the board of directors =
I believe this is unnecessary; a board of 8 or 9 trustees has proved
sufficient and adding more trustees has the potential to further slow
down decision-making, as we try to get every trustee's opinion where
possible.

Twelve is a very large size for any board, and I think if the trustees
do need additional help then it's best doing this in a different way
(by delegating some powers) rather than continuing to expand the size
of the board.

Based on recent elections I personally don't believe there is a strong
enough field of candidates to maintain good competition for a board of
12.

I would recommend voting against resolution 4.


= Resolutions 6 & 7: Grievance Procedure =
I have had some discussion with Sara over the last month regarding her
motion and the perceived issues with the Grievance Procedure, and I'm
grateful for the clear and concrete suggestions she's made with
resolution 6. However, I don't agree with some of those suggestions.

I've carefully considered if I have any biases relating to how the
Grievance Procedure has been used - as treasurer/secretary I tend to
be relatively independent of most Grievance Procedure decisions as I
have other things to keep me busy - but I can't see any indication of
many of the alleged deficiencies in the current procedure.

I think independent oversight of every grievance procedure case (there
are usually 3-5 per month) is a completely disproportionate measure.
It will invariably slow grievance procedure cases down even further,
as trustees (who frequently only have time to do trustee work on
evenings or weekends) will have to co-ordinate with the external
party.

I also think the requirement in resolution 6 to completely suspend the
grievance procedure until a new one is drawn up is irresponsible. It
will completely prevent the trustees from dealing with members'
behaviour which is unsafe or severely disruptive, especially in light
of the fact that a number of bans will be expiring in the next few
months.

I have proposed a new motion (resolution 7) which includes my opinion
of the improvements needed for the grievance procedure.

I'd recommend voting against resolution 6, and for resolution 7.


= Special Resolution 8: Term limit for trustees =
This amendment to the articles (which I drafted on behalf of Sara)
limits the consecutive number of terms that a trustee can stand to
two. After this, a trustee can't stand for election for another three
years.

With a board of nine trustees, each term is nominally three years.
However, as trustees occasionally stand down before the expiration of
their term, in reality a term is sometimes less than three years. This
is especially true of those trustees who were serving when the board
was smaller and there was more rotation - I think I've been re-elected
4 or 5 times, despite having served for slightly less than 6 years. No
currently-serving trustees have held their position for more than 6
years.

I'm not sure what this resolution is trying to achieve, and my opinion
is that if someone wants to keep the thankless job of being a trustee
(and they are properly elected as such by the membership), then they
should have that option. This proposal will just restrict the
candidates that the membership can vote in.

I am also somewhat concerned about the legal validity of this clause
(especially in a case where for some reason it would result in fewer
than the legal minimum number of trustees), but I haven't had time to
obtain a legal opinion on it.

I'd recommend voting against resolution 8.


= Special Resolution 9: My amendments =
These amendments fix a few bugs in the constitution which I consider
to be uncontroversial:

1) Remove the requirement for the trustees to hold a meeting to remove
a member if the grievance procedure has been followed.
2) Codify the method of the membership removing a member by special
resolution (a 75% majority vote).
3) Remove the "no further places" candidate from the trustees election.
4) Replace an old reference to "annual general meeting" to read
"directors election".

Point 3 has caused some concern so I've expanded on it in this thread:
https://groups.google.com/d/msg/london-hack-space/HhoOg4IRSAU/xS0CDXIFCQAJ

I would, naturally, recommend voting for resolution 9 :)


Cheers,

--
Russ Garrett
ru...@garrett.co.uk

sara....@msn.com

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Jan 2, 2016, 8:08:25 PM1/2/16
to London Hackspace

Russ.  As you say, we have conversed quite a lot in recent weeks and I am totally and utterly surprised by what you've said here.  You and I both know that not all of the trustees operate in the best interests of the Hackspace membership; we also both know that some biases have been too big to ignore for some trustees when working on Hackspace grievance issues and that emotional responses have gotten in the way of best practice for the trustees sometimes - this is not at all right in my view.

You told me the Hackspace was founded on trust and mutual respect, but recent trustee behaviours (e.g. the blatant and targeted touting for people to ask for this EGM and certain of the resolutions) fly in the face of this; likewise the weak governance of a poorly structured grievance procedure enabling unverifiable and unjust warnings at times or grudges to be harboured - I question if this is being used to protect fiefdoms and punish people unfairly.

You told me that having a board of 9 was useful because someone usually had the time to chip in - I am sorry, but to my mind chipping in just is not good enough and a grievance panel must be properly constituted.  This "usually has time to chip in" also indicates there are not enough people to cover all bases in a properly structured manner.  The grievance process needs a clear separation of duties for trustees and a layer of independence to ensure fairness and consistency of treatment for all.

For a trustee to serve more than two consecutive terms without a break before standing again stunts good governance, thwarts fresh ideas and gives some people an elevated opinion of their importance - no one is indispensable and frequent churn is a good thing and goes on in many other places very successfully outside of the Hackspace.  With a membership of more than 1200 people I find it difficult to understand that finding candidates would be a problem.

I know you and Jonty go way back and recent events cannot have been easy for you or ignored (links with the above for good governance).  You told me you had questioned your own biases and I think that is a good thing.  Surely though for you to orate your views in the way that you have here is a step too far for the chairman about to host this EGM, the clearly contentious issues and potentially handle peoples' proxy voting.

I think all voting for each and every resolution should be made online for fairness and complete transparency when it comes to one member one vote.  I know you always aspire to do the right thing and I urge you to do the right thing in this case - move all voting online and relinquish proxy voting.  The proxy voting mechanism is misleading and it is easy to click the button - where one would expect to see more information it simply tells you that you have given away your voting without realising what you were doing.......can this be right - not at all and it should be removed.  With an electronic vote there is no need for proxy voting and you having the proxy voting (per your own bias review) may not be in the interests of the Hackspace.

 

The trustee’s mailing list post contains misleading and unsubstantiated information.  Also, it should be noted that the required drafting in of former trustees (close knit group from the Hackspace early and smaller days) and apparently five days of negotiation where one or two trustees looked to force the views into the public domain is really quite shocking.  Further, I would like to highlight the same names repeatedly commenting on the list and shutting down those who don't support them.

Russ Garrett

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Jan 3, 2016, 6:29:09 AM1/3/16
to London Hack Space
On 3 January 2016 at 01:08, <sara....@msn.com> wrote:
> likewise the weak governance of a poorly structured grievance procedure
> enabling unverifiable and unjust warnings at times or grudges to be
> harboured - I question if this is being used to protect fiefdoms and punish
> people unfairly.

I have still not seen any suggestions about *which* warnings are
allegedly unfair. I am happy (I'm sure the other trustees will be as
well) to refer any disputed warnings to an independent person to
review them. Every warning we issue is approved by at least 75% of the
trustees, and I'm satisfied there is plenty of discussion and dissent
amongst those trustees to prevent warnings being unjustly issued.

> You told me that having a board of 9 was useful because someone usually had
> the time to chip in - I am sorry, but to my mind chipping in just is not
> good enough and a grievance panel must be properly constituted. This
> "usually has time to chip in" also indicates there are not enough people to
> cover all bases in a properly structured manner.

One of the very core founding principles of London Hackspace (and all
other hackerspaces) is that it's volunteer-run. This is how the
organisation works, and it's how it has always worked. If you're
looking for a professionally-run organisation with paid staff, this is
not that organisation.

Given that constraint, volunteers are always going to be time-limited.
If you constitute a new panel of volunteers to handle grievance
procedure issues (and the trustees would genuinely love that, as
dealing with grievances is by far the most time-consuming part of the
job), then they will be under those same time pressures.

I definitely think there are issues with the Grievance Procedure, and
I think those issues are mainly due to a lack of clear rules for
transparency (where appropriate), a lack of timelines for resolution
of issues, and - ideally - a method of appeal.

More than that, though, I think this entire situation is a symptom of
a lack of community. We need better inductions, more events, and
generally more ways of bringing the community together. I want to
spend my time doing that, rather than arguing legalese (which, despite
how it may appear, I profoundly dislike).

> I know you and Jonty go way back and recent events cannot have been easy for
> you or ignored (links with the above for good governance). You told me you
> had questioned your own biases and I think that is a good thing. Surely
> though for you to orate your views in the way that you have here is a step
> too far for the chairman about to host this EGM, the clearly contentious
> issues and potentially handle peoples' proxy voting.

I will be taking votes for the remaining resolutions at the EGM by a
show of hands, which is the standard method of voting. If there is any
doubt about the result (and I will very much be erring on the side of
caution), I will defer the voting to the online poll - we won't be
running ballots at the EGM, partly for the reasons you mentioned, and
partly because it's an administrative nightmare.

The members have the right to demand that a poll is taken under
Article 16(a)(ii), and I recommend you use that recourse if you don't
trust my judgment on the matter.

My commitment to democracy and the proper running of this organisation
far outweighs any opinions I have on these issues.

> The proxy voting mechanism is misleading and it is easy to click the button
> - where one would expect to see more information it simply tells you that
> you have given away your voting without realising what you were
> doing.......can this be right - not at all and it should be removed.

This is not correct. By clicking that button you're simply applying
for an online vote. You haven't given away any voting rights, as it
clearly tells you - you're just registering for the online poll.

sara....@msn.com

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Jan 3, 2016, 7:39:06 AM1/3/16
to London Hackspace
Russ

Let’s speak in a timely manner.  I am available much of today and tomorrow evening.  Please call me to arrange – you have my mobile number from previous emails.

Regarding the grievance procedure - I will not name names in a public forum.

Regarding the Hackspace grievance procedure approach - because grievances have always worked in a way is most definitely not a reason to continue that way.  I know the Hackspace is run by volunteers, however in one breath you state you need extra resources because of your perception of the time this procedure takes (an appropriately structured procedure would in all likelihood reduce the time and effort) then in the next breath you say the trustees cannot deliver because there isn’t enough resource.

Regardless of whether it is a volunteer organisation or not the trustees have an obligation to provide a safe and fair environment for all and even application of the rules.  In the current environment I know of members that would not appeal for fear of being the next target and would not volunteer information for the same reason.  Are you able to demonstrate 75% support for the warnings issued please.

My point about the voting put simply is that there should be one method of voting for this EGM rather than many – this only confuses issues and makes it harder for people to have their say.  Online voting would de-personalise the issues and that makes the whole thing more fair and reasonable.

As ever, happy to discuss.  Sara


On Saturday, 2 January 2016 15:48:44 UTC, Russ Garrett wrote:

Lynz

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Jan 3, 2016, 8:43:28 AM1/3/16
to London Hackspace
Surely this is best discussed on the mailing list or at the EGM rather than between 2 individuals? The resolutions have already been raised so they're open for discussion amongst the membership as a whole.

Tim Reynolds

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Jan 3, 2016, 4:46:43 PM1/3/16
to london-h...@googlegroups.com
Removing the online voting removes the ability of people who are unable
to attend the meeting to vote on the most controversial issues.

You're calling for open and transparent communication about some things
you want, yet other things you want to be done only in person and via
the phone. It is very hard not to see an agenda there.

Keep everything out in the open and include as many people as possible,
please.
>> [1]
>>
>> I would, naturally, recommend voting for resolution 9 :)
>>
>> Cheers,
>>
>> --
>> Russ Garrett
>> ru...@garrett.co.uk
>
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Eugene Nadyrshin

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Jan 4, 2016, 10:10:23 AM1/4/16
to london-hack-space
I should note that I'm in total agreement with the reasoning in the first post and will vote as per recommendations

Cheers
Mentar

For more options, visit https://groups.google.com/d/optout.

Nick Cripps

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Jan 4, 2016, 11:39:04 AM1/4/16
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It seems to me that an online poll on each resolution, open to all members, whether they are able to attend the EGM or not, would be ideal. This would be fairest to those not able to attend the EGM (there are bound to be a small number of people unable to attend because of important prior commitments, despite the long notice of the date, who will know this and have the opportunity to speak to those who did attend the EGM and hear the arguments). More importantly, it could be made partly anonymous (perhaps one person would be able to know who voted which way unless a third party service is available). Personally, I have no problem with people knowing how I vote on the resolutions put before the EGM but, it sounds like some people would like this added measure and, it seems worth doing to prevent any accusations that people made their decision based on anything but their own views. What are the downsides? Is it hard to do something like this through a platform like the one used for the elections? If it isn't difficult, having an online poll a few days after the EGM seems worth doing if some people want an online poll, in the interests of ensuring everyone feels they have had their say. If it turns out to be only a few people who want it, it probably isn't worth the effort but, if a significant number of people would prefer this, it seems sensible to make the (presumably reasonably small) effort to do so. 

Nick

Russ Garrett

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Jan 4, 2016, 11:43:36 AM1/4/16
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This is already exactly what is happening. Any resolutions which prove
controversial at the EGM will be voted on through an anonymous online
poll, run by the same provider as the trustee elections. If you want
to vote on that poll, you can apply to do so by clicking the button
here:

https://london.hackspace.org.uk/members/proxy.php

Russ
Russ Garrett
ru...@garrett.co.uk

Nick Cripps

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Jan 4, 2016, 12:11:05 PM1/4/16
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Ah, apologies, I misunderstood this. 

Thanks

Samb1

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Jan 4, 2016, 2:12:11 PM1/4/16
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Likewise.
IMO Russ has made it nice and clear and I agree with this approach.
I don't think excessive extra rules and outside monitoring will help build the community. It will hinder the trustees' job rather than improve it and/or possibly transform it into some other bureaucratic role which I doubt many people (volunteers) will have time/inclination for.

(I also don't support voting anyone out at the EGM but I'm sure I've said enough about all of that).

David Sullivan

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Jan 12, 2016, 3:03:13 PM1/12/16
to London Hackspace
On Sunday, 3 January 2016 12:39:06 UTC, sara....@msn.com wrote:
Russ

Let’s speak in a timely manner.  I am available much of today and tomorrow evening.  Please call me to arrange – you have my mobile number from previous emails.

Regarding the grievance procedure - I will not name names in a public forum.


Perhaps maintaining some air of mystery gives it more of a "conspiratorial" feel but I was hoping something more might come out in the week or so since this was posted, something, *anything*.
Other people urged you to be public about this but still all we have to go on is your emails to this thread. You want  us to vote through drastic changes based on a rumour? Private discussions you may have aren't going to make the people who are supposed to be voting this through any the wiser. Is there some big reveal coming tomorrow at the EGM itself?

As it stands it's still not actually clear on what this resolution is for or what it's to address. I don't see how this new Grievance Panel will be any improvement on what Trustees are having to do now. It has it's own massive negatives as well as not having any sort of grievance procedure *at all* for a period, it shouldn't pass on this last point alone.
 
Regarding the Hackspace grievance procedure approach - because grievances have always worked in a way is most definitely not a reason to continue that way.  I know the Hackspace is run by volunteers, however in one breath you state you need extra resources because of your perception of the time this procedure takes (an appropriately structured procedure would in all likelihood reduce the time and effort) then in the next breath you say the trustees cannot deliver because there isn’t enough resource.


So Grievances aren't taken seriously?
 
Regardless of whether it is a volunteer organisation or not the trustees have an obligation to provide a safe and fair environment for all and even application of the rules.  In the current environment I know of members that would not appeal for fear of being the next target and would not volunteer information for the same reason.  Are you able to demonstrate 75% support for the warnings issued please.


Grievances are taken too seriously? A few Trustees are ruling with an Iron fist and fiddling the vote and/or intimidating the other Trustees?
What sort of target? Should people be watching out for a hitman on their way home? The amount of innuendo in your statement beggars belief.

This all seems to be painting a picture of Trustees doling out warnings unjustly to anyone and everyone on a personal whim regardless of what even the other Trustees think. Given that I've seen someone be verbally abusive and intimidating to someone in front of a room of witnesses and then only get an Informal warning you'll forgive me if I don't laugh hollowly at the idea of Warnings being issued willy-nilly in a heavy-handed fashion.

My point about the voting put simply is that there should be one method of voting for this EGM rather than many – this only confuses issues and makes it harder for people to have their say.  Online voting would de-personalise the issues and that makes the whole thing more fair and reasonable.

The motion is confusing and bizarre, even more so as you've insisted on it's original wording as-is, it won't be a surprise to know which way I'll be voting on this.

Sully.
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