Who’s Zooming Who?
AKC has suffered a number of setbacks since registrations peaked in 1992, but I would submit that the most significant one was the retirement of former COO John Lyons in 2013.
John had a dramatic impact on the AKC by increasing outreach to commercial breeders without compromising compliance, by improving online access and efficiencies for registrants and clubs, and by recruiting skilled and talented professionals to the organization. But of greater importance were those “intangibles” he possessed: an even and steady temperament, a fair-handedness in an organization that had a reputation for being petty and playing favorites, and an ability to absorb and diffuse the “crazy” that dwells there.
His impact and influence on the organization are no more telling than in its inability to replace him, much to its continued detriment.
When I was working at AKC, I recall one conversation with John over the question of Delegate Meetings. At that time, AKC was in austerity mode, and Delegate Meetings were seen as an opportunity for cost-cutting, among other reasons, because the meeting locale rotated around the country. Two meetings were held in the Tri-state area, one was held in conjunction with the National Championship, and one floated. Finding suitable venues for a one-off meeting, at a reasonable cost and, more important, shuttling staff there was challenging.
During the discussion, I opined that the simpler solution was for staff to stop attending the meetings because I didn’t see what our presence added.
John responded with something that I have never forgotten. He said, “It doesn’t really matter whether there’s any reason for us to be there. It’s their meeting, and if they want us there, we have to be there.”
“It’s their meeting.”
I think about that every time I read Delegate Meeting minutes, especially in this current COVID climate, where Delegate Meetings are now conducted via Zoom. While I understand the necessity, and applaud their overcoming the obvious technology challenges that the parties have had to confront, I question whether there is now anything about the Delegate Meetings, and as a result, the organization, that is “theirs” anymore.
We’ve heard it so many times, it’s become cliché: AKC is a “club of clubs.” But is it?
How engaged are the Delegates able to be now that they are even further removed from the organization for which they hold the sole “power,” as expressed in the Charter and Bylaws, for the member clubs they represent?
To what extent are the Delegates able to hold the Board that they elect accountable now, much less after the Delegates’ vote to essentially give over power to the Nominating Committee —selected by the Board — to determine the slate of Board candidates who may then be summarily chosen without necessity of an election? If the organization may avoid a “costly” election, as the preamble to amendment editorializes, by approving the Nominating Committee’s slate, does that have a chilling effect on the willingness and ability of independent candidates to run from the floor?
How can staff and the Board say with credibility that the Big Club belongs to the little clubs when something as basic as the clubs’ ability to own and control the rights to the live-streaming and filming of their own events is dictated and restricted by Board policy?
I was gobsmacked to read in the Minutes that Board Chairman Tom Davies characterized the AKC as a “tricameral” organization in his remarks at the September Delegate Meeting, equating the Board and staff with the Delegate body. There is no language in AKC’s Charter and Bylaws that supports such an absurd notion, but Davies apparently acknowledged the reality of the way the organization currently operates by saying the quiet part out loud. Sadly, as things currently stand, suggesting that the Delegates stand on equal footing with the Board or staff may be generous.
“Their meeting” has turned into nothing more than a virtual dog and pony show.