Close Read: The IDF Constitution

 In Community

(Updated 8:49AM) Now that they’ve launched a website and published their Articles of Association/constitution, we can finally take a good look at the new global sanctioning body for downhill skateboarding. The Constitution itself is pretty dense, wordy, and hard to understand. I encourage you to go read it yourself. Here’s what it means for you as a rider or general member.

Update 2:37PM: The IDF decided to post some of the correspondence between Max and Lee Cation that went into this article. You can read it here.

Under its current constitution, the IDF is not democratic in any meaningful way unless you’re on the board of directors.

The IDF Board makes essentially all decisions by itself, with no checks on its decisions until board elections in 2 years.

If you aren’t on the IDF board, you only get a vote on 2 things: disciplinary appeals and the election of board members at the Annual General Meeting (Articles 17 and 26). You don’t get to vote on the rule book, which races are world cups, how the world champion is selected or whether or not we’ll have traditional timed qualifying runs at world cups, just board members and disciplinary appeals.

Board elections don’t happen until 2014 for the general board, 2015 for executive positions (Article 27). Don’t like how they run the 2013 season? Too bad. You’ll still have to pony up $30 for IDF membership in 2014 if you want to go to any IDF event.

Disciplinary appeals are voted on at specially-called appeal meetings at which the disciplinary matter is the only matter of business (Article 17). More on this later.

Appallingly, members can only vote in person at a meeting of the federation; so the overwhelming majority of members will have absolutely no say in the running of the organization (Articles 26 and 36). Given the international nature and global scale of the organization, I cannot understand why there won’t be online voting.

At those in-person votes, IDF board members are allowed to cast proxy votes for 5 people, while regular members can only proxy vote for 3 (Article 36).

Under its current constitution, this organization is not required to be transparent in any meaningful way.

Board meetings can be called with only 48 hours verbal notice from the secretary to the board (Article 28, section 3).

Only 3 people are needed to convene a board meeting (Article 28, section 5).

Board meetings are not necessarily open to the public. Meeting notes do not have to be released. (I can’t cite the constitution here because it’s silent on the topic of transparency.)

The constitution doesn’t say when or where the Annual General Meeting will be held, nor does it say anything about announcing the meeting publicly. While I don’t expect them to do so, if the board members wanted to they could have the General Meeting in the Cayman Islands, in secret, and reelect themselves for another two years.

When asked about this stuff, Lee Cation assured me that “[b]eing an International Federation the IDF would extensively use video communication for the purpose of meetings.Not all members are required to be at every meeting, a simple quorum will suffice.”

The IDF’s membership and disciplinary policies make it possible for the IDF to ban anyone, for any reason, with an unreasonable appeals policy.

According to Article 14, the board can deny membership based on any concerns about an “individual’s identity, behavior or moral character, or any other relevant consideration that may be brought to the attention of the board.”

So if, for example, the IDF board decides that they don’t like gay people, they would be completely within their rights to deny me membership.

Under article 16, the board can “suspend or expel” any member if the board is satisfied that they have violated the rules in the IDF constitution or have “persistently and willfully acted in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the Federation.”

That means they could conceivably ban me from skateboard racing for life, just for writing this post. That said, when I asked the IDF about this they’ve said that “the interests of the IDF lay in having an open and accountable federation. The collection of diverse opinions and ideas is something we value and is in our interests and our structure. Being asked the hard questions is something that always lacked in the past so we encourage this to the benefit of the entire community. The IDF has a direct responsibility to respond and be accountable to its members concerns.”

I can appeal their decision under Article 17, in which case they’ll call a special IDF meeting at which people vote on my appeal. If I’m not especially popular in downhill skateboarding and can’t get a bunch of IDF-member friends to come back me up–remember, you can only vote in person and board members can proxy vote for 5 people while normal dudes only get 3–I’m screwed.

When I asked the IDF about this stuff, Lee Cation got back to me with this:

“It may sound strange if you have not had much exposure to the running of bodies like this but these are all very normal rules within associations. What we are talking about here is the very obvious things like criminals, drug cheats, people that don’t exist, extreme racists and the like. A less obvious thing might be fraud or an individual with a business interest in doing damage to the federation and the sport. Its simply a check on abuse that is required when you have a very open membership.”

I had hoped that this new organization would live up to its founders claims and be truly democratic, accountable, and transparent. Under its current constitution, it is not required to be any of those things.

In my interactions with the IDF board, they’ve responded to these criticisms by saying essentially “Trust us. Be patient.”

I believe the members of the IDF board have good intentions and trust them to do their best to make downhill skateboard racing as rad as possible. That said, the constitution they’ve written worries me.

– Maxwell Dubler

The original version of this article failed to include the IDF’s response to the issues raised here. That was my fault and I apologize. It was updated within four hours.

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