For the first time in the organization’s 114-year-history, a member of the American Numismatic Assocation’s board of governors was deprived of his seat by unanimous action of the other board members present.
The vote to remove Walter Ostromecki Jr., who was elected to the board in July, was taken Oct. 14 at a closed meeting of the board in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Reason for the removal was “a breach of confidentiality,” according to the ANA.
Precisely what the nature of the breach was was not defined by the ANA, though in a telephone conversation with Numismatic News Oct. 17, ANA President William H. Horton Jr. said the charge against Ostromecki was based on “one major incident” approximately one month ago.
Ostromecki confirmed Oct. 18 by e-mail to Numismatic News that the issue involved a letter he wrote to Cliff Mishler in September in reponse to an e-mail that Mishler had written to ANA executive director Chris Cipoletti with copies to Ostromecki and all the other board members.
Mishler and Chet Krause led the official ANA fund-raising effort to pay for the new ANA museum.
Mishler characterized Ostromecki’s letter to him as an acknowledgement of his e-mail. Mishler’s e-mail complained about a decision made about the naming rights to the ANA Museum. Mishler believed he had an understanding whereby the museum would be named for past executive director Edward C. Rochette. The ANA in turn maintains that only the main gallery is named for Rochette by terms of the agreement.
Mishler said the letter from Ostromecki and a follow-up letter were the only things he received from Ostromecki. When asked directly if he received any ANA documents or what might be considered proprietary material, or any verbal communication in any manner from Ostromecki, Mishler replied, “Absolutely not.”
Horton explained the situation this way:
“He (Ostromecki) released some confidential stuff that shouldn’t have been released, and not just a little bit,” said Horton.
When asked if Ostromecki’s conduct was in any way criminal, Horton said, “No.” When asked if the breach of confidentiality would result in any financial damage to the ANA, Horton said it was “hard to say financial.”
According to Horton, following the breach, Ostromecki was talked to and a letter was sent to him Sept. 29 telling him the board would take up the matter during its regularly scheduled October board meetings and the letter told him what the issues were.
Horton said the board sat down with Ostromecki in Colorado Springs, asked him why, had a discussion, asked him to leave the room and voted 7-0 for removal. (Gov. Don Kagin was in transit at the time, having delayed his trip to Colorado Springs for observance of Yom Kippur.)
When asked if Ostromecki had legal counsel, Horton replied, “No.” When asked if he had been given the opportunity of having legal counsel, Horton said Ostromecki “didn’t ask.”
Were any other penalties considered? “None whatsoever,” Horton replied.
Was the penalty appropriate? “Considering what he did, yeah.” Horton said.
Ostromecki’s penalty did not include expulsion from the ANA, so when asked if he could run for the board again, Horton replied, “I would think he could,” but added that it would raise a legal or bylaws issue that would be referred to the executive director.
Horton characterized the mood of the seven board members by saying it was “not a happy time,” “very stressful” and “heart wrenching.” But he summed up by saying they “felt they had to do what was best for the association.”
Ostromecki was elected to the board in the ANA’s biennial mail vote by the membership, which was concluded in July. His vote total of 4,215, put him at the bottom of the popularity order of the president, vice president and seven governors elected. He was sworn in July 30 with the rest of the board at the World’s Fair of Money in San Francisco.
This new vacancy on the board will now be filled by Brian Fanton, who had the most votes of the losing candidates. His 4,027 votes put him in eighth place for the seven seats. Fanton was to be sworn in as soon as arrangements could be made, but he said on Oct. 19 that he did not know when it would be.