This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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It is time to abolish the 10-year term limit for members of the American Numismatic Association board of governors.
The ills of two decades ago that the term limit was designed to fix are now long gone and I think a case can be made that the ills of the last 13 years in trying to find a competent executive director were in part due to inexperienced boards that succeeded to the governing responsibilities after the last of the old-timers disappeared.
The absence of institutional memory on the board helped open the door to a power grab by the former executive director that would have made the board a creature of the executive director rather than an independent body that appoints one.
I choose to raise this issue now when things seem to be settling down at ANA. A new path has been embarked upon that is methodically solving the problems and lawsuits that have arisen since former executive director Christopher Cipoletti was dismissed for cause in 2007.
However, I believe the current ANA success depends on the individuals who are currently serving as executive director, president and governors, rather than by an institutional design.
It may seem strange to bring this topic up now when, as the resignation of Chet Krause shows, the main issue with the current board seems to be retaining members for more than a term or two.
However, bylaws are in the process of being revised and it is far better to consider changes of this kind during a period of calm when the bitter recent memories are still fresh.
Board experience is not a cure-all. The term limits were imposed to force off the board individuals who had strong personalties who then fell into strong rivalries. The rivalries caused some problems and created some back-door channels to staff that should never have happened, but in terms of dollar costs to the ANA and the overall loss of prestige of the organization, these problems paled in comparison to the millions of dollars lost and the reputation stained in the 21st century.
I cannot imagine a John Jay Pittman or a Grover Criswell, both former presidents who ran again and again, agreeing to eliminate the independent ANA legal counsel on the grounds of cost savings and creating an all-powerful executive director.
That just wouldn’t have happened without at least one of them sounding the alarm. Certainly neither would have honored the gag rules that threatened rather than guided some recent boards.
It is also seems to be no accident that a former president, Ken Hallenbeck, was brought in as interim executive director after Cipoletti was fired. Isn’t it odd that he is subject to term limits, but can be the appointed executive director? I think so.
Finally, if board members become a problem, as the election of 2007 showed, you don’t need term limits to sweep them out of office.