You, dear reader, have a real job that doesn’t afford you the ability to follow this kind of gossip, so lemme bring you up to speed.
Dec 28 – Board Election Results Announced
The Professional Association for SQL Server held their elections for Board of Directors, the people who shape the direction of the community, SQLSaturdays, and the annual PASS Summit. Here’s the final tally:
- Adam Jorgensen – 1,026
- Denise McInerney – 990
- Rob Farley – 958
- Sri Sridharan – 781
- Kendal Van Dyke – 762
- Geoff Hiten – 526
There were 3 spots open, so Adam, Denise, and Rob won spots on the Board of Directors. I didn’t bother blogging interviews or recommendations this year because the whole slate was fantastic. Any 3 of these folks could have won and I’d be giddy. We’re really getting great volunteers who want to help move the community forward, and they’re willing to go through a pretty ugly public process to be scrutinized. (Think back to the debacles involving Matt Morollo making the cut and Steve Jones being passed over.)
Jan 13 – Board Member Wins Without Running
Two Board positions were suddenly available because one Board member (Andy Warren) resigned, and another Board member escalated to the Executive Committee – Douglas McDowell became the Executive VP of Finance. I say “suddenly”, but that’s kind of cheesy – the Board knew both positions would be available, but due to the way the bylaws are structured, they couldn’t have just elected 5 people instead of 3.
It’s up to the Board to pick who they add (again, due to the bylaws, which they write). They could have picked the #4 and #5 spots (Sri and Kendal), but they passed over Sri, appointed Kendal, passed over the #6 finisher (Geoff) and appointed James Rowland-Jones.
Note that James wasn’t one of the election results above – that’s because he didn’t even run for the Board.
What disturbs me the most here is that now if you want to run for the Board, you’re not just running against other people who have publicly gone through the gauntlet. You’re going up against people you may never see coming, who don’t have to go through any public vetting process whatsoever. This sends a dangerous message: if you wanna be on the Board, just buddy up to them.
I’ve held off blogging about this because I’m torn. I think James Rowland-Jones is an amazing community organizer and a great guy. If he would have run for the Board, I would have supported him too, but only after he went through the public process. The community (including me) would ask a lot of questions about the people who would run our events. We were denied this chance.
Steve let loose in a long post including:
“With the election so recent, with so many others declining to volunteer for the board, one would think that it would be easy to appoint the fourth and fifth highest vote recipients to the board…These were people approved by the nomination committee, validated by the community and voted for. Apparently the board felt that the nomination committee and the community must not have good judgment. Sri Sridharan, a friend, a volunteer, and an energetic worker on behalf of the Dallas community was not chosen. He has organized three SQL Saturdays, and was instrumental in bringing the SQL Rally to Dallas. He decided to run for the board of directors, something that few have done. Regardless of the qualifications of others, there is no argument that Sri is qualified for the board.”
I just couldn’t agree more, period. I’ve heard repeated hints that James didn’t ask for the post to begin with, either, which makes his appointment even more unusual. Someone wanted him in the PASS Board of Directors bad, and passed over community members that wanted in – and that the community had voted for. That’s more than a little disturbing.
Jan 14 – Andy Warren Says There’s a Problem
Andy Warren had just resigned from the PASS Board, saw the process, and blogged about the problems:
“Why not appoint Sri and Kendal to the two vacancies and convert James to a voting seat? Tradition satisfied, no net change to the number of seats on the Board (or to the budget), no chance of a public uproar. Why not do that? We don’t – and won’t – know, because it was covered in NDA session, and the public explanation doesn’t really explain. Members can take the decision at face value, or perhaps infer that Sri had some flaw that shouldn’t be discussed publicly. Transparency could damage, so does secrecy.”
Andy’s pointing out that the PASS Board is using the same excuse they used when denying Steve Jones a chance to run. “We could tell you why we did this, but it would hurt someone’s feelings.” That’s a bullshit excuse.
Jan 14 – Chris Webb Blames the Americans
Chris Webb says that US voters will only vote for US candidates:
“In my opinion the big problem with PASS is that on one hand it’s a self-described international organisation (number #3 on its list of current and future strategic objectives is to “Focus on International Growth and Consolidation”) but it is, in effect a North American user group with a North American focus, run by North Americans. As far as I know the vast majority the membership of PASS is in North America and therefore it’s not surprising that North Americans dominate the board: PASS members vote for candidates they know and can relate to, and who address their concerns.”
This is kind of insulting to me since I voted for Rob Farley, the only international candidate, and I wasn’t alone – he won. Chris goes on to say:
“Not every community is as lucky as Australia to have someone like Rob who is a native English speaker, has an impressive technical reputation and can spend the time and yes the money (those plane tickets to the PASS conference aren’t cheap) to become sufficiently well-known in the North American community to win a PASS election.”
Beep beep, back the truck up – he was the only international candidate who the NomCom put on the ballot. He was the only choice we had. You can’t condemn the US voters for not picking foreigners when there’s no other foreigners on the ballot. If the UK community needs a seat at the PASS Board table, then someone from the UK community should run. Full stop.
But as long as we’re complaining, how about women, then? Women are a big part of the SQL Server community as evidenced by every popular Women in Technology luncheon at the Summit, but the Board is a sausagefest. Why aren’t we appointing women to the Board? They’re underrepresented too. This argument just doesn’t hold water.
Jan 15 – Board Member Tom LaRock Responds
Tom’s recently taken on the Vice President of Marketing role in the Board, so the poor guy has to put on the asbestos suit and brave the flames. He writes:
“It is not the case – as some community members have stated in the last couple of days – that the next highest vote getter in the PASS election is automatically asked to serve for an appointed Board seat. I know this because in 2007 I fell 13 votes short of winning a seat in the general election and was not asked to serve a vacant seat for 2008. That honor went to Pat Wright.”
Both Tom and Pat ran – James Rowland-Jones didn’t even run for the Board.
Jan 16 – Aaron Bertrand Sides With The Board
Aaron’s a fantastic voice of reason, and he put a lot of thought into his post (along with the discussions in the comments). The problem I have, though, is that Aaron writes as if the Board didn’t see these two additional positions being open long before the election was held. These were not two shocks – Andy resigned and someone was going up to the Executive Committee. We saw these things coming in advance, and in good faith, the Board should have taken the two next highest vote-getters. Saying the additional two spots weren’t really up for election is obeying the letter of the law and not the spirit.
In the age of the Occupy movement, it’s tough for me to say, “It’s okay for the Board to follow the letter of the law, but not the spirit.”
Jan 16 – Simon Sabin Blames the SQL Community
I really respect Simon, but I lost my lid when I read his response to the issue.
“The community votes for the PASS board and so maybe that is the problem. The community doesn’t know what people are needed to run PASS. Just because you eat KFC each week doesn’t mean you can run KFC.”
I absolutely agree – but that’s the purpose of the Nomination Committee. They filter out the large number of people who want to run, and get to just a short list of people who are qualified to run. This means the problem isn’t actually the SQL Community – it’s the NomCom. In a way, the PASS Board of Directors agrees with him because they chose a Board member who didn’t even run through the public process. Even if there was a problem with the next-highest-vote-getter (Sri), they could have taken Geoff. They turned down not one, but two of the NomCom’s selections.
The Board gets to pick anybody they choose to run PASS. I sure wish the voters had that same luxury. If the Board believes the NomCom isn’t picking the right candidates, then the Board needs to fix that problem, too. As it is right now, though, I can’t tell whether it’s a Board problem, a NomCom problem, or both, but any which way, Simon can’t blame the community if the solution is picking a candidate who wasn’t even on the ballot.
Jan 18 – What I Think About This Mess
This is the third year in a row that I’ve smelled something bad about the elections. I gave up on PASS politics last year, and this year reminds me why. I’m just disappointed and let down by the closed-door, we-know-what’s-good-for-you, to-hell-with-the-public things that keep happening.
I love the result – James Rowland-Jones is a fantastic guy who will do a great job with the community. But I’m absolutely disgusted with the shady process.
What do you think? Does anything seem odd to you about how the politics works?
I feel for JRJ because he’s in an awkward position (along with Kendal, Geoff, Sri, and everybody else impacted) but he put a lot of time into writing up his thoughts. I commented on that post directly, and I’ll include that here:
“I did not run for election because I simply would not have been able to do the process justice.”
OK, part of me just says we need to stop there. If you didn’t have enough time to do the election process justice, then you don’t get to serve as a Board member. That’s only fair to the people who did have the time to do the process justice. To me, the election process is a down payment on the work required to serve on the Board. If you don’t have enough time to do the election process justice next year, will the Board give you another pass next year and just re-appoint you rather than going through elections?
“PASS is investing in Global Growth. It’s a strategic bet. The interest in the SQL Server Community internationally has never been higher and PASS needs to make the most of this.” –
It sounds like this has been going on for quite a while – perhaps before the elections started. If that’s the case, why didn’t PASS promote this international agenda as part of the NomCom process and choose more than one international candidate? I know it’s not really your place to answer, but I just gotta ask because it’s a little odd to say PASS just now realized they needed someone from outside the US, they didn’t know this during the NomCom selection process, and they simply can’t afford to wait until the next election – especially since you’ve been working with them for a while now.
“My role to date has been to advise the Global Growth Portfolio and its sub-committees on what that future shape might be. As time has gone on it has become clear to me that my fellow international advisors and I are doing a lot more than advising.”
How would you compare or contrast this with the management company’s role or the marketing team’s role, for example? It would seem that they do a lot more than advise as well, but they don’t need voting seats at the Board in order to accomplish that, do they? Why is your role different?
Jan 18 – Wes Brown Calls Me Out
Wes responded directly to my post, including:
“I get it, you don’t like the way the bylaws are written. Run for the board and get them changed. You know and I know you would win by a landslide.”
If the restaurant down the street serves me a bad hamburger, the answer isn’t for me to apply for the cook job. Sometimes, the answer is for me to just find another restaurant.
“We need to strip the PASS board of the ability to appoint anyone to the board at all. If it isn’t voted on by the membership there shouldn’t be an appointment to the board PERIOD. I’m serious.”
The Supreme Court doesn’t have the right to appoint its own members when there’s a vacant position. Maybe only former PASS Board members (who have moved on from the current brouhaha) can appoint members, or maybe we just run elections over the web. Seriously, it’s not that hard to take a poll these days. The harder part is sifting through the qualified applicants to narrow the ballot down, but as we’ve seen with the recent mess, the Board doesn’t even trust the NomCom’s selection of potential candidates, because they passed over both Sri and Geoff.
Jan 19 – Watch JRJ’s Comments
As the discussion continues here and in the blog posts linked above, I’d like you to keep something in mind, dear reader. Look at James’ behavior in the blog post comments as he interacts with people. Watch their demeanor, and watch his. James’ actions speak volumes. He’s reacting in a way that makes me proud to know him, and he’s reinforcing exactly why I believe he’s a great addition to the PASS Board. The guy’s unflappably cool and collected until it’s time not to be cool and collected. I really respect him.