ARRL’s “Transparency vs. Confidentiality” Emergency: Rescue ARRL With Your Vote This Month

DRAFT. Not yet for public consumption. Please send your comments to [email protected]

We are writing to inform you of a series of events at ARRL, and to ask you to vote for these director candidates to put ARRL back on track, making it a more transparent organization that represents its members properly. Please visit their web sites:

The rest of us should be talking with our friends in those divisions. ARRL represents every US ham to government and elsewhere, and is the International Secretariat of IARU, representing all hams worldwide. Thus, every ham, everywhere, has a stake in the operation of ARRL, and a right to see this calamity resolved.

In 2016, ARRL had corporate attorneys provide a director and officer code-of-conduct. This code was designed for a for-profit corporate board, and stressed confidentiality, just the wrong thing for a non-profit board that should be representing its members! The ARRL board majority voted this code, officially called the ARRL Policy on Board Governance and Conduct of Members of the Board of Directors and Vice Directors,  into the bylaws in January, 2017.

The code required that directors act to the membership as a unanimous bloc and not dissent from board decisions in their public speech, even if they voted against those decisions. It restricted directors from discussing the results of votes until ARRL officially announced them.

By suppressing reports of their own dissent by ARRL directors, this new policy deprived you, the membership, of control of ARRL. It made it very difficult for the membership to understand what a director stands for, and thus to have the knowledge necessary to vote for them. Even discussing your own division director’s decisions with them will be difficult if they aren’t allowed to disclose their own feelings.

A second proposal was made by Hudson Division director Lisenco, which would add four new voting members of the board who would not be directly elected by the membership, further reducing the representative democracy of ARRL. After membership outcry, this proposal was shelved.

At the 2017 International DX Convention (Visalia) ARRL Forum, ARRL Southwestern Division Director Dick Norton N6AA got up on stage and told us about all of this. That was the first time that most hams heard about the new director and officer code.

For Dick’s efforts to inform us, the members, he was publicly censured by ARRL, with the censure published on the front page of the ARRL web site. An open letter from NCCC to ARRL claims the reasons given for the censure were inaccurate and that there was no issue with Director Norton’s conduct. Many of us feel that ARRL’s censure was defamatory.

Dick is known to have strong opinions, and not to be afraid to give them voice.  It’s possible that this censure was more connected with conversation behind closed doors at ARRL or elsewhere, than it was with the publicly-stated reasons. But that’s not the way a representative organization like ARRL is supposed to work. The reasons for any board motion given to us, the members, must be the real reasons and there must not be secret reasons for this sort of action.

Nobody would blame Dick for reacting to his censure angrily, but subsequent to this event he’s been perfectly polite and level-headed, refusing to incriminate anyone at ARRL or outside who participated in his censure and representing the issue and both sides equitably. You can watch Dick’s discussion at Visalia a year after the event leading to his censure: Part 1, Part 2.

At that meeting (and probably others), Dick stated that the ARRL board was divided between a confidentiality bloc which wished to retain the terms preventing directors from expressing public dissent, and a transparency bloc which wished to keep the membership more in the loop of ARRL decisions, allowing directors to speak freely.

After Dick’s censure, the revelation of the confidentiality terms, and outcry over the two additional rule proposals, it became clear to ARRL that the membership was upset. Upset members struck straight at ARRL’s pocketbook. At the Nevada ARRL convention’s ARRL forum, it was reported that ARRL had lost a bequest in excess of one Million dollars in reaction to the confidentiality issue, and that many members had declined to renew. But ARRL did not handle dissent among its own membership well. In January 2018, ARRL president Rick Roderick wrote to hams accusing transparency advocates of an organized misinformation campaign, only to be contradicted by his own board just days later, when they agreed to review the code of conduct, temporarily suspending some of it’s worst provisions while leaving equally bad ones in place.

A proposal to add additional disciplinary rules to the ARRL bylaws was leaked to the membership. Outcry caused this proposal to be shelved.

ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher NY2RF then resigned, unexpectedly only two years after he replaced 34-year CEO David Sumner K1ZZ, although Gallagher did not publicly connect his resignation with political issues.

At the ARRL Donor Reception at Hamvention, a private affair they hold for significant financial benefactors; Rick Roderick addressed the donors regarding the transparency issue, saying “we hear you”. In discussion with Roderick and several directors in the ARRL booth, we were told that they had obtained a new code of conduct from a national organization supporting non-profit organizations. They promised to present it to the membership in August.

But the ARRL board broke that promise. August came and went, and the confidentiality bloc on the board was unable to come to agreement with the   transparency bloc, preventing acceptance of a candidate text. Because of this deadlock, the ARRL board has no proposed text to reform the director and officer code today, and has presented no new text to the membership.

The transparency and confidentiality blocs on the ARRL board next came into conflict on the election of a new CEO: Howard E. Michel, WB2ITX. Prior to his election there was a movement to delay the confirmation of the new CEO until the directors had time to research the candidate presented by the search committee. This motion failed by just one vote, and ARRL did not disclose which directors voted yea or nay, but it is thought that the 6 directors voting to delay election of the new CEO were of the transparency bloc.

Subsequently the confirmation of the new CEO was voted upon, with Mr. Carlson, Holden, Norris, Williams, Lisenco, Blocksome, Pace, Boehner, and Allen voting Aye and Mr. Abernethy, Frenaye, Tiemstra, Sarratt, Norton and Woolweaver voting Nay. The motion passed 9:6. It is believed that the aye voters are mostly of the confidentiality bloc and the nay voters mostly of the transparency bloc.  But the most serious issue is that the ARRL board was split on the election of its new CEO. A position like this should be expected to be the result of a nearly-unanimous vote of the directors, or should not be filled at all.

And that’s where we are today. ARRL’s board is divided into a transparency bloc and a confidentiality bloc, with the  confidentiality bloc in the majority and the proposal for four officers to gain the vote potentially adding more votes to that bloc. The members are not currently represented as they should be, due to the continued application of a policy meant for a for-profit corporate board. The only whistle-blower on the board was publicly castigated for informing us. The currently-suspended rules that go against the member’s interest are temporarily suspended, and could be restored. Shelved governance proposals and possible new ones adverse to the interests of the membership wait in the wings for possible action next January.

We can defuse this situation and restore proper member representation in ARRL by electing five new directors who stand for transparency and thus removing the power of the confidentiality bloc. The transparency candidates are:

ARRL members in those divisions will receive their ballots within days. Please vote, and please support the candidates above.


Bruce Perens, K6BP: One of the founders of the Open Source movement in software, an ARRL Diamond Club Platinum member; pioneer of embedded Linux and the modern Linux distribution, initiator of the Codec2 project and evangelist for Codec2 and FreeDV, founder of No-Code International,  which led the successful fight for the end of the Morse Code examination as a prerequisite for Amateur licensing. <[email protected]>

Bob Famiglio, K3RF: Past Vice Director 2015-17 – ARRL Atlantic Division

Robert A. Wilson, N6TV: ARRL Life Member
Michelle Thompson, W5NYV: ARRL Life Member. Lead engineer of the Phase 4 Ground project, creating a digital Amateur satellite communication system.