Thursday, May 31, 2007

We Need New Leadership in the US Chess Federation

It will not be long before USCF members will be voting to select 4 members of the Executive Board from among 10 candidates. The candidates have all submitted statements for publication in Chess Life magazine, and in 90% of the cases, the statements reflect the candidates’ accomplishments and priorities. I urge all USCF members to read the statements and vote for candidates whom they feel will help the USCF to have greater positive impact for our pastime, our professionals, and (especially) our scholastic programs. But please read this before you vote; and if you share my concerns about the 10th candidate, please pass this information on to fellow USCF members.

Candidate and sitting Board member Sam Sloan has never disclosed a critical conflict of interest—namely, the fact that he has posted a large amount of extremely offensive material on his personal website that compromises the USCF’s mission. Here are the titles of a few of his web pages:

* “How to Rape a Woman” (instructions on how to commit the crime in such a way as to make prosecution difficult)

* “Still Even More Proof That Girls Can’t Play Chess”

* “World’s Worst P**n” (shockingly lurid artwork that young children have discovered while looking for materials related to the Pokemon card game)

There is an abundance of material even more shocking than this, but it is so offensive that I simply do not want to mention it.

Concerned with the impact that this repugnant material might have on potential sponsors and on the scholastic chess movement, members of the Board and other USCF members have asked Sloan to remove these pages. Sloan has decided he does not care what anyone else thinks; he has continued to publish this material, regardless of its effect on our organization.

According to Bill Goichberg (USCF President) and John Hillery (member of the US Open Committee), a major corporate sponsor was poised to provide significant funding for the 2007 US Chess Championship—until they ran across Sloan’s internet postings during their due diligence, and as a result decided not to associate with our organization. Sevan Muradian of the North American Chess Association also stated that 2 potential sponsors withdrew their interest in funding the same event when they discovered Sloan’s website.

Does the USCF really need to have Sloan’s website tied like an albatross around its neck as it tries to forge partnerships? Why should we continue to lose partnership opportunities worth tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars, just because one of our Board members wants to post provocative material on his personal website?

But the ability to alienate sponsors is a stubbornly persistent trait in Sloan:

  • In October he denounced the motivations of the American Foundation for Chess (longtime sponsor of the US Championship, as well as of fantastic scholastic programs in the Northwest). In fact, Sloan even copied the head of the AF4C on the email to make sure he would read it! The Executive Board censured Sloan for this email.
  • Sloan has ridiculed sponsorships offered by Texas Tech University for national scholastic tournament winners, posing the question: “how many, who do not live in Texas, really want to go there?”
  • He has deemed the Susan Polgar All-Star Girls Team to be a fundraising “scam” with no worthwhile objectives. The fact that the Susan Polgar Foundation is providing memorabilia, positive publicity, and coaching for a week-long training camp for honorees is not relevant to Sam Sloan.
  • He publicly linked the AF4C to the dissemination of illicit, prurient materials on the web. The Executive Board almost immediately censured Sloan (again!), but it was too late--the AF4C withdrew its offer of $25000 in sponsorship money for the 2007 US Championship.

As the USCF continues to try to forge partnerships with individuals and organizations, do we want Sam Sloan to continue sitting on the Board, vilifying those who are trying to invest in the future of US chess?

In addition, Sloan’s campaign statements are full of puffery that does not stand up to scrutiny:

Sloan on His Censure: “When I demonstrated that a board member had rigged his own rating by submitting fraudulent rating reports involving fictitious players, causing him to resign, and when I notified the membership that the USCF had no money and no sponsor to hold the US Championship, the board voted to censure me the next day for telling the truth. It is up to the voters to decide whether they want the Official Secrets of the USCF to remain secret.”

The Facts: Sloan filed his accusations against former Board member Robert Tanner long before he took office, and in any case Tanner resigned soon thereafter. In the same October 2006 email in which Sloan insulted the AF4C, he mentioned the Tanner case. The Board has openly stated that its censure motions were the result of Sloan’s insults, and published (in our membership-only forum) the text to prove it. Sloan is trying to pull a fast one on the USCF membership by linking his censure to his Tanner accusations. The second Board censure came as a result of Sloan’s linking of the AF4C (and its predecessor, the Seattle Chess Foundation) with the dissemination of highly illicit materials. The censure motions are available for view in the USCF Issues forum, which any USCF member may read.

Sloan on Our Financial History: “I have started an investigation into how the USCF lost two million dollars. I have exposed payments made by board members to their political allies. I have in most cases (but not in all cases) stopped wasteful and ridiculous expenditures.”

The Facts: Since taking office, Sloan has made literally dozens of accusations of wrongdoing in the USCF Issues forum. Without exception, every single accusation has proven to be baseless. Here is a small sampling of the nonsense he has been foisting on the USCF membership:

1. Sam alleged that the USCF paid Susan Polgar $14,000 to be present at the 2003 US Open, where she did nothing. But in fact the fees and expenses were only $3000, just 21% of what Sam reported, and Polgar did give a simultaneous exhibition and lectures.

2. Sam stated that USCF President Bill Goichberg wasted $4788 in membership dues money by consulting an attorney with the intent of preventing Sloan from taking office. In reality, Goichberg consulted the attorney primarily for 2 other issues. In addition, he had used the attorney’s findings on election rules to dissuade delegates from attempting to unseat Sloan at the USCF Delegates meeting in August 2006.

3. Sam charged that GM Polgar has never paid any money to the USCF for items such as affiliate fees and rating fees. The reality, however, is that the Polgar Chess Center has paid its fees. USCF staffer Judy Misner has confirmed this.

4. Sam alleged that Chess Life has been giving Polgar free advertising for the past year. But in fact, the ads were the USCF contribution to a contractually agreed joint venture with the Susan Polgar Foundation (a 501(c)3 organization) to establish the Susan Polgar All-Star Girls Chess Team. The SPF is contributing memorabilia, positive publicity, and coaching for a week-long training camp to be held at the New York City Athletic Club July 24 – 27.

5. Sam contends that 3 Executive Board candidates favored by the sitting EB were allowed to run for office without paying their filing fee. Grant Perks, member of the USCF Finance Committee, has demonstrated that their filing fees were commingled with other payments that were deposited on January 31, 2005, and the 'Executive Board' account was credited $750 ($250 each) on the same day. The USCF routinely makes photocopies of checks prior to depositing them, and Perks has even provided photocopies of the checks to the Board. Sam claimed that they had not been cancelled, so it was all a fraud--but in doing so he only revealed his ignorance about how the banking system works (or perhaps his propensity to fabricate ridiculous allegations). Anyone who understands banking would recognize that after the USCF’s bank processed the checks, the cancelled checks were transmitted to the banks where the check-writers maintain their accounts. So it is impossible for the USCF to be in possession of the cancelled checks.

Sloan on Our Current Finances: “We completed the fiscal year on May 31 and there has been another huge loss. Other board members are now telling you that we are in the black.”

The Facts: Sloan published this statement in the USCF Issues forum on May 24. How could he possibly know that there was a huge loss? The year-end accounting will not be completed until mid-June at the earliest! And how could he possibly know what other Board members would say? Furthermore, Sloan provided not one shred of analysis in support of his notion; he simply asserted there was a huge loss. He did not provide any line item analysis; this suggests that he did not perform any line item analysis. (And how could he, weeks in advance of the existence of data?) Sloan appears to just make stuff up as he goes along.

We don’t need any more reruns of Sloan’s embarrassing show. Sloan contends that he has been good for the USCF because he keeps the Board accountable. This is ridiculous: firing off baseless allegations one after another does no one any good. In addition, any member--whether he or she be a small-time scholastic organizer like me or just another wood-pusher--who is truly interested in the good governance of the USCF, has the ability to make a positive impact. Our financial reports are published monthly. Virtually everything that the Board sees, members can also see by searching through the publicly available BINFO system. And if you want your voice to be heard, login to the USCF Issues forum and make a post. Members of the Board actively participate, and are genuinely interested in what we have to say. Members like Donna Alarie, a Massachusetts delegate, have been raising important issues for our organization in a positive way. We need more of Donna and others like her, not of Sam Sloan.

The USCF has been embarrassed and hindered by Sam Sloan long enough. It is time for us, the members, to say “no” to Sloan and his attempt to turn the USCF into a circus of absurd accusations. Instead, let’s vote for qualified individuals who hold the best interests of our organization at heart, and will work to make the USCF more successful in promoting American chess.