Don’t Let This Happen: Failure to Review Constitution Results in Challenged Election
At Little League® International in Williamsport, Pa., and at our Regional Offices, calls and emails come in all year long about situations that are happening at one of our 7,000 local leagues. Many of these calls and emails inform us of some very positive initiatives spearheaded by our millions of volunteers. However, there are also negative situations.
“Don’t Let This Happen to Your League” details a real-world scenario, how it has impacted a league, and how you might learn from it.
The names have been omitted in the following scenario, but the situation is real.
The Situation: The local league’s membership holds its annual election of officers, and proceeds to place its League President, Vice President, and other positions on the Board of Directors. After the new Board of Directors is announced, an individual claiming to be a “regular” member of the local league contests the election of the new League President, claiming the constitution passage governing the election was not followed. Upon review of the current local league constitution, which had not be revised or amended for 27 years, it is discovered that there is no clear definition of league membership. The membership issue brings into question who is eligible to vote during General Membership Meetings, which effects the nomination and approval process for Board members, coaches and managers; and halts the appropriation of league funds for purchases and various projects until after the issue is resolved, leading to extra costs for the league. A stalemate occurs between the previous leadership and the new Board.
The Outcome: The contested election focused on the ability of a “regular” member to vote on the nominations set forth by the previous Board of Directors. After the District Administrator’s review of the local league’s constitution, it is determined that the “regular” membership is not clearly defined to the point that the D.A. contacts the regional office for guidance on how to put appropriate language into the constitution. The Regional Staff, the District Administrator, and the outgoing League President work together to address the concerns regarding the election, while at the same time writing language that defines a “regular” member, along with “Honorary” and “Sustaining” members of the Board of Directors. With the regular membership identified, the previous results are discarded and the Board nomination process is again conducted, this time in a special meeting that included the newly-defined regular members of the league. With all members identified and accounted for, new language is written into the league constitution that explains how Board members are to be nominated and voted upon.
Note to Leagues: Each year, prior to the end of the league’s fiscal year, the current Board of Directors’ Executive Committee is strongly encouraged to review the local league’s constitution and bylaws to ensure that both documents provide the necessary direction for the league's incoming Board to govern effectively. During this same time, the Executive Committee should assign the Board’s Secretary to assemble an updated list of members and place it on file. The constitution also needs to outline and define a quorum of voting members required to authorize Board business. If the local league does not currently have an Executive Committee, it should strong consider forming one. After the constitutional review is completed, the Board should publicize and be transparent with its nomination and election schedule and process. Encourage all of the league’s volunteers to consider contributing their time as a Board member or committee member.