Tuesday, January 8, 2013

RO comments on the conduct of the July 25, Delegate Meeting

(John's note: Below is an excerpt from the December 19, 2012 Court Conference with Judge Berman where Review Officer Dennis Walsh discusses the conduct of the July 25, Delegate Body meeting.)  

MR. WALSH: Judge, before we turn to the benefit funds, I do want to bring up a point about the delegate body.

There are some in the administration who think I was perhaps a little harsh in my comments about the conduct of certain delegate meetings, but I don't think I was. I think that the union needs to aspire to a very high standard in the conduct of its governmental affairs.

There have been meetings -- and I hope that they do not ever happen again -- but there was one particularly poorly run meeting in July which has received some attention. I think it is a poster child for what not to do when you are the president of the district council and trying to run a proper meeting under the parliamentary rules of the UBC. It reminded me, because I observed it, in some cases of an exhortation to a mob.

And I was greatly disappointed that people were shouted down, that they did not have the opportunity to pursue perfectly legitimate questions that they wanted addressed by the dias. And I criticized the leadership for that.

There was a report requested by one of the delegates from that night, Mr. John Musumeci, who I think was fairly characterized as the victim. Perhaps they would call him just the recipient of some insensitive remarks from the chair and insensitive conduct. He requested a report from the inspector general and the compliance officer. And I've talked to him about this. He was very bitterly disappointed with their review and their finding that in their estimation the only technical violation committed by the president was that he did not leave the dias before he started to opine on the question before the body.

So I said that I thought intelligent people could disagree but that in my view the conduct could fairly be viewed as harassment, for what that was worth.

I think the moral of the story is that people understand that they erred.

Mr. Lebo is no longer with the executive leadership, having resigned.

The last delegate meeting held last week was the best meeting I have seen since the inception of the new government at the district council. There was not a raised voice. Questions were intelligently posed and fulsomely answered. And there is no shortage of important matter for the delegate body to consider at these meetings.

I still think, though, that there is room for improvement. That the pre-reads, the various bills and other documents that need to be considered before they can be voted on, need religiously to be disseminated no later than 48 hours before these meetings. There's an e-mail address for every one of these delegates. And I was told by one of the delegates that I met with yesterday or the day before that he got an e-mail fifteen minutes before the delegate meeting with documents that needed to be reviewed by a careful delegate if he or she was going to make an informed decision about some of this stuff.

I've been talking for the better part of two-and-a-half years about preparation, PowerPoints, e-mail dissemination, informed and collegial debate. There's still room for improvement. I think that they realize that, that they are getting there, but they cannot get lazy about any of this. They've got to set the example for the future as to how the district council can conduct its affairs, particularly in a time when you have freely elected executives who have no mob taint. So now is the time to get this right.

THE COURT: Is there a training that would help?

MR. WALSH: I frankly think that training would help. And there is lots of training going on at various functions at the district council. I've conducted training myself for the inspector general's office over the course of three nights. We've instructed investigators in the merits of Strunk & White. These are things that you would never consider. And there's, you know, ethics training. There's sexual harassment training. There's all manner of training that has never before been given at the union.

And they've made tremendous progress. And to some it's a dirty word but it has become more corporate in a good sense environment rather than just people who are somebody's pet or favored people who don't particularly have any skills.

I mean you have to have merit to get hired at the union. There's an HR department. There's an interview process you have to go through the UBC vetting program to get rated. So training, though, would help I think in union governance.

THE COURT: Counsel do you want to comment on that?

MR. MURPHY: I did not attend the delegate meeting in July. One of my associates attended. So I can't comment personally on what transpired. I understand that it was not very pleasant. Essentially vice-president has assumed the chairing of those meetings, Michael Cavanaugh, I believe, and I concur with the review officer that the last meeting, and I believe the meetings before that have been run very smoothly, very professionally with respect.

I have discussed with the chair now, vice-president Cavanaugh, and with the EST Mr. Bilello what I would I guess call ground rules which are that if you -- you don't raise your voice, the chair doesn't leave the podium unless he surrenders the chair to someone else if he needs to go and make a point from the audience. And that the result has been I think, as I said, very professionally run meetings.

(John's Note: On August 28, 2012, a four-count charge was filed against NYC District Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mike Bilello and former President Bill Lebo, tomorrow at 4:30 pm the Executive Committee will be reviewing the charges.)

1 comment:

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