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Ostromecki should be put back on board

This is how I see it. The American Numismatic Association board of governors has a choice. Either its members reinstate Walter Ostromecki to his seat on the board or they vote to remove Vice President Barry Stuppler from his seat.

If they refuse, they set themselves up to be described as a group who will bend their bylaws and codes of ethics to minimize penalties applied to members of a favored clique while inflicting maximum penalties on someone outside it. Why did they handle the two cases so differently?

Every American knows that laws not enforced uniformly are not justice. Do members of the ANA board know that?

What was Ostromecki’s offense? He received an e-mail from Cliff Mishler, who headed up ANA’s fund-raising drive for the museum. He responded to it. That is a courtesy the other eight board members did not extend to Mishler.

What was in the letter? I urge you to read the full text on Page 28. As far as I can see, the only thing in that letter that Cliff did not already know in his capacity as fund-raiser was the line that reads, “I have voiced my concerns during a Board conference call as so.” There you have it. That is the only bit in the entire letter that Cliff did not already know.

So is the ANA board correct that Ostromecki breached confidentiality?

Apparently the very act of writing a letter is considered a breach. He writes Mishler that he voiced his concerns on an ANA conference call. He told an outsider the topic of the discussion. The walls of ANA headquarters must have trembled at that revelation.

So, like Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, he was taken out and figuratively hanged by the seven board members present in Colorado Springs Oct. 14.

Now consider the Stuppler case. As I wrote in the April 8, 2003, issue of Numismatic News, he was accused in a complaint filed with the ANA board by Diane Hager, owner of ASA Accugrade,  of violating “the ANA Dealer Code of Ethics and the Board Member Code of Ethics with two e-mails, one he sent to one of her clients identified as Anthony Royale, in a ‘blatant misuse of power’ and violation of the laws of Florida (ASA Accugrade’s home state) and California and in violation of eBay rules. The other was posted online. …

“She accused him of illegally interfering with a transaction and referring Royale to a Web site whose sole purpose was to ask visitors to boycott ASA Accugrade. He identified himself in the e-mails as being a member of the ANA board of governors.”

Though the board felt that Stuppler acted for the right reasons, on the specific charge of the complaint it sided with Hager. On March 22, 2003, after a public hearing March 20 at the Charlotte, N.C., convention, the ANA board issued its decision to “admonish” Stuppler. In their written decision, they said, “The Board concludes that Mr. Stuppler’s e-mail to Mr. Royale violated the Board Member Code of Ethics.”

Stuppler was admonished. Ostromecki was removed. Is this an even-handed application of penalties? The board issued an admonishment in a situation where the complainant alleged that an act of a board member was illegal. They expelled a board member for violating the board’s secrecy policy with not even an allegation of illegality or harm.

We must presume that the board feels that Ostromecki’s letter was not written for the right reasons and Stuppler’s e-mails were. Otherwise, what is the difference?

This appears to be uneven enforcement of essentially the same set of rules. Yet, the ANA board may have a perfectly logical explanation for why it removed Ostromecki and not Stuppler. I think the board owes the ANA membership a full and complete explanation. I think they need to reverse one of the two decisions I write about in this column. If the ANA board does not, what can we conclude? If you are not acting for what the ANA board considers the right reason, no matter that the regular members elected you to serve on the board of governors, you will be removed, the election results be damned. 

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