Another Executive Director, Gone.

I just returned from the Central States convention, and it was there at about noon on Friday that I found out that the ANA has again let an Executive Director go.  Jeff Shevlin’s contract will not be renewed in June.  I was stunned.

Several times at the convention, someone asked me if I knew anything about the reasons, and I had to tell them (truthfully) that I don’t know.  I may be a candidate for the Board of Governors, but that doesn’t make me privy to the decision making process.  Only actually being on the BoG would give me that access.

Here is the extent of my knowledge–if you can consider rumors to be knowledge (I wouldn’t):  Rumor has it that it wasn’t anything remotely scandalous or criminal, it really was just a case of ‘poor fit for the job’ and/or ‘didn’t see eye to eye with the Board on what the ANA should be doing.’ (Those phrasings are mine, not someone else’s; I used the single quotes to delimit them from the rest of the sentence.)

There have been demands from some quarters that the ANA explain in more detail why Jeff Shevlin was let go.  Good luck with that.  Unfortunately for concepts of openness, employment law in the US is in such a state that vague generalities are all we are likely to get; anything more leaves the ANA open to lawsuits for defamation of character on top of the almost ritualistic wrongful termination lawsuit.

Alas, this means that I cannot promise that if I am elected to the Board, and we have to let someone go, that I will be open about the real reasons.  Sorry.  By the same token, though, anyone who does make such a promise doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Unfortunately you, as an ANA member, have to be satisfied with electing Board members that you trust to make the right decision, even when they can’t tell you everything they know.

I know enough of the people on this board to give them that trust.  I doubt that they blundered specifically in letting Mr. Shevlin go.  There was a real problem here.  On the other hand, it’s certainly possible that the problem was the board’s responsibility.  Perhaps they didn’t define the job well enough; perhaps they didn’t define policy well enough.  Or any of a dozen other possibilities.  Or (going back to the first hand), perhaps none of them.  At this point we simply don’t know.  But I do know that I can’t see the BoG doing this for capricious reasons.

One argument I’ve heard that doesn’t hold water, is that because Jeff Shevlin is a stellar individual dedicated to the hobby, the Board was wrong to dismiss him.  I will without reservation grant the premise; I don’t know Mr. Shevlin that well, but I’ve heard nothing but good about him on all those measures.  But the conclusion doesn’t follow; those qualities do not mean he’s cut out to be an executive director.

So let’s cut out all the posturing–blaming Mr. Shevlin, blaming the Board, blaming the organizational structure, even blaming the ANA Staff–and do the only rational thing.  Let’s figure out what actually happened, and take steps to prevent it from happening again.  This will require an ANA Board full of people dedicated to the good of the ANA, willing to face some potentially unpleasant truths, so long as doing so will help the ANA.

Something went wrong. And whatever that something is, it needs to be fixed.  And I, as an ANA Governor, won’t be satisfied with a band-aid.  I will want a fix that stays fixed.  We have seen too many executive directors come and go; this has to end.  That means a thorough understanding of what the problem is.  Not just with this instance, but the previous executive director.  And the one before him.  And the one before him.  And I don’t have that yet.  If elected I will to talk to absolutely everyone with so much as a shred of insight into any organizational “inside” problems the ANA has, to try to figure out what they are.  Or any mistakes we made in recruiting the Executive Directors in the past.  Or… well, whatever it may be.  The possibilities are legion; I could list a few (and I did, and then I deleted them) and it would be a stroke of luck if I actually named a genuine issue (which is why I deleted them).

Whatever it is, we must fix the root cause.  Or causes.  Even if the next Executive Director is chosen before the new Board takes office, this will be useful information; depending on what it is, perhaps we can make needed (and likely painful) changes and save a directorship that would otherwise fail.




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