For the second time in recent months, the board of directors of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA) has reversed course on a governance matter. Last night, in a meeting at Laurel Park, the Board voted by a 6-3 margin to undo the work of a committee it had created in May and instead to put off any bylaws changes until the next board election, in 2014. That decision may reopen wounds that the committee’s creation was designed to salve.
In late May, following a lengthy executive session, the board announced several actions. Among the most important of those was the creation of an ad hoc committee to review and recommend changes to the organization’s bylaws, which by most accounts have not been updated for more than a decade and still include reference to elections held in the 1980s.
Four board members had participated on the ad hoc committee, which had met twice in the interim and had, according to participants, achieved significant consensus on a variety of changes, including term limits and staggered terms. It had not yet crafted a final report or submitted any recommendations to the board for its approval.
But last night, board president Richard Hoffberger moved that the board decline to consider any bylaws changes until its next election, in 2014. Those in favor of the motion, which passed 6-3, included Hoffberger, Neil Glasser, Tim Keefe, Dale Capuano, Linda Gaudet, and Christopher Grove. Opposed were Larry Johnson, Christine Bricker, and Katy Voss, all three of whom had participated in at least one of the ad hoc committee’s meetings; none of those voting to spike the committee’s work had attended the meetings, although there was some discussion of changes under consideration prior to the vote.
The decision marked the second time in recent months that the board had reversed course on bylaws changes. In late April, the organization’s members, in a Special Meeting, voted 126-115 to vest in themselves, rather than in the board, the authority to elect the organization’s president and vice-president. One week later, the board voted to undo those bylaws changes (here) on the grounds that an unknown number of ineligible voters had mistakenly been allowed to vote. That decision, which followed an acrimonious and often personal campaign, caused a firestorm among many members of the group, and the May decisions had been designed to quiet that anger.
It was unclear what exactly had changed in six weeks to cause the board action. While on the one hand, the board at large did not appear to be supportive of some of what the ad hoc committee was likely to propose, other proposals would likely have been non-controversial.
Johnson, whose proposal to alter the organization’s presidential election process had to some extent ultimately spurred the creation of the ad hoc committee, described himself as “disgusted.” The board, he added, “is deaf to members, acts in its own self-interest, and is incapable of change.”
Multiple sources on and off the board of directors agreed that last night’s action is more likely to inflame passions than to soothe them. One said that the question is no longer whether, but when and how, the situation will come to a head.
Johnson did not appear to disagree. “It’s not over,” he said.