The following is an open letter to the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors with copies being provided to Numismatic News and the Numismatist for publication to the ANA membership. The note refers to most recent articles that appeared in Numismatic News as wells as previous news reports regarding the actions of the Board. Permission is granted to all news publications to reproduce this note in whole or part as long as proper attribution is included.
There are so many good things to write about in numismatics. Aside from my own successes in finding interesting items, the interest in collecting has risen significantly. Regardless of whether the reasons can be tied to the 50 State Quarters program, the new currency, the fascination with the skyrocketing values of rare coins, or the rise in the precious metals markets, the interest in numismatics seem more sustainable than the overheated market of 1979-1980. Even with my late arrival for the Baltimore Coin Convention, I saw remnants of a very strong weekend. Then I opened the March 28, 2006 edition of Numismatic News to pages 34-36 and wondered if American Numismatic Association is in step with its members.
ANA President William H. Horton, Jr. asked Numismatic News to reproduced a guest editorial by ousted Governor Walter Ostromecki, Jr. that originally appeared in Coin World. The article appeared with a previously unpublished rebuttal written by Mr. Horton. If you are a member of the ANA, I urge you read these tomes. They should disturb you as much as they disturbed me.
The articles makes it appear that a person who is naive in the political innards of the ANA was caught up in the ANA Board of Governors’ attempt at propaganda. It has the appearance that the Board is covering up its action. For Mr. Ostromecki and the ANA Board, please remember that the operative words are “appear” and “appearance.” These new statements and previous articles on the matter leaves a lot of questions as to whether the current Board can regain and maintain the trust of the membership.
Was there a problem with Mr. Ostromecki’s credibility? It is possible one could assert this accusation from his own written explanation. One of his arguments was that copies of the policies and procedures were not provided in a timely manner. But as an ANA member, Mr. Ostromecki should know that the Association has a charter and bylaws that does explain how he should conduct himself. This is discussed in the Article “Board Member Code of Ethics.” By Mr. Ostromecki’s own admissions, it appears that he violated Section 8 of that Article regarding confidentiality of Board proceedings on more than one occasion.
Mr. Horton’s response said that the board was concerned that there may have been a violation of Section 11 which prevents board members from making “any promises or commitments on behalf of the Association unless authorized to do so….” This may be the one issue that would truly justify the board’s actions. But the attack laid by Mr. Horton that used 18 paragraphs and almost three full columns of print before addressing this issue leaves the impression that there was a vendetta against Mr. Ostromecki.
In the ANA Bylaws Article “Board Member Code of Ethics,” Section 13 says, “A Board member shall maintain the highest standard of personal conduct.” An open article in a numismatic publication that uses the word “lies” without full disclosure of the evidence is not only bad judgment but does not meet any high standard of personal conduct. As ANA President, Mr. Horton should be above name-calling and be the one to set the example in this matter. In short, Mr. Horton should examine his own judgment and motives before accusing Mr. Ostromecki of showing bad judgment.
As a professional in the area of information security and public policy, it appears that the ANA has a serious business risk in the way its board conducts the Association’s business. Aging bylaws have not been amended to reflect the changing needs of the organization. As a result, the board appears to be enforcing de facto operating procedures without appropriate policies in place. For example, there are provisions in the bylaws where the Association’s counsel and executive director are required for decisions, yet the same person holds these offices. If Chris Cipoletti is still acting as executive director and of counsel to the Association he should be asked to resign one of these positions. Not only does this suggest a conflict of interest that is dangerous to any organization but an outsider can question the ethics of an attorney that would legally advise an entity which he has a personal stake. This situation should be resolved immediately.
Another de facto standard without appropriate policy of the use of email to conduct Association business. Email is not covered in Section 10 of Article IV of the ANA bylaws. If the board is that interested in confidentiality, they should know that sending email is the electronic equivalent of mailing a postcard. Policies of known services like AOL and Google say that they reserve the right to scan your email for violations of their policies. Making this practice more incredible is that there have been accusations against AOL and Yahoo! for misuse by their employees. If there is a lawsuit against the ANA for items sent in email, the ANA will have a difficult time proving the chain of custody of their messages. The potential outcome of such litigation should worry every ANA member, especially that some of the Board members have accounts with these services. The Board is urged to consider proposals to improve on the bylaws so that it reflects the Association’s current operating environment by addressing the risks with mitigations that will improve operations, like supplying secure, archival email access on ANA controlled servers.
Many people will agree with Mr. Ostromecki’s comment that the actions of the board lack transparency. As a member driven organization, the Board should be accountable to the membership. By not disclosing policies, procedures, and the essentials of decisions made by the Board, ANA members left to question the motivations of the decisions made by the Board of Governors. The privilege of serving on the Board of Governors in a organization where membership is a privilege should include a responsibility to be accountable to those who have entrusted you with the organization’s present and future. The Board members must demonstrate that they are deserving of this privilege by making as much transparent to the membership as legally and practicably possible.
In the time since the election of the Board of Governors, there have been letters printed in numismatic publications that indicate that members and non-members are losing trust in the Association. If the current course continues, the potential is there to put the ANA charter in jeopardy. No ANA member wants to see the Association fall into this type of disarray. Therefore, the Board of Governors is urged to consider these suggestions to strengthen the ANA for today and the future.
For the record, I am and will remain an ANA member.