Sunday, March 29, 2009

Interview with Executive Board Candidate Brian Lafferty


EV: Do you feel like the governing structure of the USCF works? If so, why (do you think that)? If not, is it changeable and what should it be changed to?

BL: The governing structure works, but not well. Ideally, the USCF would not have the Delegates as the board of directors, especially with the full board, as it were, meeting only once a year. I would favor a board of 10 to 14 members serving much as boards do in other non-profit organization.

I would also have a very clear ethics/conflicts of interest policy that each board member would be required to sign yearly.

Many of these issues and possible solutions can be found at
http://www.betteruscf.org/

EV: If you were going to make cuts in the USCF budget, where would they come from?

BL: I would hope that once the draining affects of litigation with Ms. Polgar and Mr. Truong are behind us, no cuts would be needed. One of the biggest problems in the past has been getting an accurate handle on the finances of the organization. Now that the USCF office has switched to a Peachtree accounting program, the numbers in our financial reports should become more meaningful allowing for cogent budget decisions that have simply not been possible in the recent past.

EV: Which other person do you tend to agree with most frequently in USCF politics?

BL: Probably Joe Lux and Wayne Praeder. But, agreement isn’t really the most important issue. Listening, actively listening, to others with differing opinions is more important. Listening, followed by honest, transparent consensus building should be the default decision-making process for all board members.

EV: Do you think it's a conflict of interest for Bill Goichburg to be President of the CCA and of the Executive Board? If so, do you think it’s also a problem? If not, why?

BL: A qualified, yes. However, it is a conflict that is out in the open. As long as it is out in the open generally and specifically as to instances when the conflict impacts matters being voted on by the board, problems can be averted. It can be dealt with by the other board members in their decision making process. Also, Mr. Goichburg should recuse himself from any vote on tournament matters that directly affect his business interests. Indirect interest are less clear and would have to be addressed by open board discussion as they occur.

EV: What specific areas of interest do you have within chess (scholastics, fund-raising, finance, rules, top players, organizing, FIDE, publications, etc.)?

BL: First of all, I do like to play chess and do so over the board every week. I am not driven to play rated chess as much as I am playing with challenging players in G60+ games. I’m also interested in correspondence chess and am captaining a team, the New England Blizzard, in a team server tournament being run by CCLA.
Organizationally, I have started and run an elementary school chess program at my daughter’s school (photos below) and I am active in the Massachusetts Chess Association, particularly distributing free chess sets to school and community organizations.


I would be very much interested in doing fund raising and assisting with grant writing for the organization. I have some expertise in that area having taught grant writing on the graduate level in the Masters of Public Administration program at American International College in Springfield, MA.

I would like to see the educational abilities of the organization enhanced to provide ever increasing resources to all areas of the chess community, especially scholastic, prison and community based chess programs.

EV: What 2 or 3 initiatives would you try to implement if you were elected?

BL: 1. The propagation of a clear ethics policy for board member and the means to enforce same without spending significant resources on litigation in the courts. Mandatory arbitration before the American Arbitration Association of ethical disputes, including board member removal, should be considered.

2. I would seek sponsorship to create a Chess Training Center where our top junior players could spend time (summers and school vacations) studying with paid trainers in an environment that would include chess, cultural enhancement (the arts, performing and study opportunity) and just plain fun.
3. I would also look for ways to increase team competition by supporting interclub matches (possibly server) locally and regionally. These might even be unrated to draw in new players to the organization.

EV: If you could change one USCF rule, policy, or procedure, what would it be?

BL: Make clear that, as much as possible, all business of the organization is to be conducted with absolute transparency so that the members will know exactly how their organization is being run.

EV: What does the USCF do best and what is it worst at?

BL: Best: ratings, tournament support, scholastic support.
Worst: lack of complete transparency in operation and adherence to the highest standards of ethics by all involved.

EV: How much work do EB members do in a typical week and what does it consist of?

BL: That can be subject to wide variation and debate. Ideally, such a position should average about 20 hours a week or a little less. This assumes an effective staff that is left to do the organization’s work without micromanaging by the board. The assignments of board members will vary by their interests and abilities.

EV: What 5 personal characteristics / qualities / skills do you think are most valuable in an EB member?

1. The ability to actively listen;
2. The desire and ability to set reasonable goals in concert with others;
3. The ability to work toward goals through a consensus approach;
4. The ability to admit mistakes and seek solutions.
5. The ability to laugh at oneself.

Just a note about these interviews: I am happy to do one for any* EB candidate. Email me if interested.

*who is unambiguously against both rape and child prostitution

48 comments:

Brian Lafferty said...

Elizabeth, thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions.

Brian Lafferty

Anonymous said...

Voting members of the USCF who want a fuller portrait of the candidate should run a search (use Brian Lafferty or Mr. Vidmar, his nom de plume) on RGCP (rec.games.chess.politics) or on the USCF issues forum. Take at least 5 to 10 minutes to read through some of his posts, many of which are quite at odds with the image projected in this interview. I looked on line to see whether there was a diagnosis for someone who appears to be rational and reasonable in person but has a different persona on line. Not exactly Jeckyll and Hyde but something like that. Online disinhibition effect. http://www-usr.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/disinhibit.html Maybe we all suffer from it to a certain degree (I know I do) and there are clearly more extreme cases (see FSS) but I think Brian Lafferty is on the spectrum. Whether this has any bearing on his candidacy, I will leave up to other USCF members to decide for themselves.

A loyal reader

Anonymous said...

I will just add that I agree with him on a lot of his articulated positions but each candidate has pluses and minuses and I would say that one of his big minuses is his online persona.

EB

curtains said...

20 hours a week is too much time to expect from a volunteer IMO. Correct me if I'm wrong because I could be, but almost no executive boards of major companies expect anything close to this much of a time commitment.

GeneM said...

Brian L. said:
{"... interclub matches (possibly server) locally ..."}


Oxymoron?

anjiaoshi said...

It's interesting that the two anonymous posters above say what they say, because I was reading Lafferty's answers and thinking he sounded like the kind of guy I'd like to have on the board. I haven't read any of Lafferty's Internet postings, but I did just visit http://www.betteruscf.org/, and one thing I find curious is that, despite the site's calls for transparency, nowhere on the site is there an "About" page that says who's behind it -- a site feature that's become an Internet standard, especially for nonprofit organizations. Even the corporate astroturf groups have "About" pages acknowledging who their backers are.

Fishy.

Anonymous said...

Brian Lafferty would be an assest to the USCF Executive Board.

Thank you, Elizabeth for the interview.

Anonymous said...

USCF voters should read the topic "On Running" in the USCF Issues Forum. They should pay attention to statements from notable persons such as Hal Terrie and Michael Aigner in that thread when they say they reject Lafferty as a candidate based on his troublesome past.

http://main.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=8734&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=Lafferty&start=15

Anonymous said...

Brian Lafferty has no conflict of interest; his only desire is to serve the USCF membership.

Brian has the education, experience and the best intentions to assist in guiding a healthy and prosperous USCF.

I know many USCF members who are voting for Brian Lafferty.

Anonymous said...

I know many USCF members who think that Brian Lafferty should take his talents back to the bicycling world. Before he joined the chess federation for the first time 2 1/2years ago, he was active in cycling and internet groups about cycling.

ATH2044 said...

Thanks for (conducting &) posting this interview, Elizabeth. This is one of the things you do extremely well. I suppose it would make sense to interview all other candidates as well. & even though the compound "email style" questions (e.g. "Did you do this & if so was it fun & if not how much did it suck or if not, why not & would you choose not to do it again?") can get laborious at times, that's often the only way to get a meaningful answer.

To Anon March 30, 2009 12:07 AM

Could you summarize the contents of this link or the opinions of Terrie & Aigner you cite?
"http://main.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=8734&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=Lafferty&start=15"
It seems to be a bunch of long threads with a lot of back & forth banter, so I'm not even sure if it's what you intended.

ATH2044 said...

Oh one more thing:
Are there actual EB candidates who are not "unambiguously against both rape and child prostitution", or is this an attempt at a humorous reference to a particular individual's sordid past?
Maybe your first interview question should be "Are you unambiguously against both rape and child prostitution?" & your second "Do you lie about it in interviews?"

Anonymous said...

Brian Lafferty's views are not embraced by everyone, honesty, transparency, and hard questions, have certainly caused some to object and attempt to 'kill the messenger'.

Please read the following very carefully, USCF members can decide for themselves.
__________________________________
How Has A Lack of Transparency Hurt the USCF? by Brian Lafferty

The USCF and several USCF members (myself included) are presently mired in several law suits involving two recently elected board members, Paul Truong and Susan Polgar. During the last USCF election campaign these two board members hid their marriage to each other. Mr. Truong repeatedly failed to provide verifiable data regarding his employment background. That background as represented to the membership turned out to be false and fraudulent. Not only was Mr. Truong not the business maestro he claimed to be, he was filing for personal bankruptcy during the election campaign. Both Mr. Truong and Ms. Polgar kept this filing secret, all the while touting his business acumen and ability to financially save the USCF..

Truong was found by three computer forensics experts to have made over 2000, obscene,vile, sexist and
racist comments about other chess players, USCF board members and managers all using false names,
including the names of some people known in the chess community, as though the posts were by these other living chess personalities, rather than by himself. This has resulted in a series of legal actions in which Polgar and Truong have failed to meet their fiduciary duty to aid in the defense of the organization—failed because they are now clearly culpable for illegal behavior.

Ms. Polgar clearly appears to be under investigation by the US Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force for involvement leading up to the breaking into the email account of a board member and stealing privileged
emails between the USCF and its attorney. Ms. Polgar's web developer and nominee for USCF volunteer of the month, Gregory Alexander, has been identified as her alleged accomplice in the break in. Mr. Alexander's home was searched on February 4, 2009 by the U.S. Secret Service under a search warrant issued by a federal judge. Materials were removed from his home for examination by the Secret Service.
There is presently an action pending in the Illinois courts to remove Polgar and Truong from the USCF board
for cause. Transparency helps prevent these situations from developing in the first place.

The USCF deserves better. I pledge to do better.

Anonymous said...

Brian Lafferty's views are not embraced by everyone, honesty, transparency, and hard questions, have certainly caused some to object and attempt to 'kill the messenger'.

Please read the following very carefully, USCF members can decide for themselves.
__________________________________
How Has A Lack of Transparency Hurt the USCF? by Brian Lafferty

The USCF and several USCF members (myself included) are presently mired in several law suits involving two recently elected board members, Paul Truong and Susan Polgar. During the last USCF election campaign these two board members hid their marriage to each other. Mr. Truong repeatedly failed to provide verifiable data regarding his employment background. That background as represented to the membership turned out to be false and fraudulent. Not only was Mr. Truong not the business maestro he claimed to be, he was filing for personal bankruptcy during the election campaign. Both Mr. Truong and Ms. Polgar kept this filing secret, all the while touting his business acumen and ability to financially save the USCF..

Truong was found by three computer forensics experts to have made over 2000, obscene,vile, sexist and
racist comments about other chess players, USCF board members and managers all using false names,
including the names of some people known in the chess community, as though the posts were by these other living chess personalities, rather than by himself. This has resulted in a series of legal actions in which Polgar and Truong have failed to meet their fiduciary duty to aid in the defense of the organization—failed because they are now clearly culpable for illegal behavior.

Ms. Polgar clearly appears to be under investigation by the US Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force for involvement leading up to the breaking into the email account of a board member and stealing privileged
emails between the USCF and its attorney. Ms. Polgar's web developer and nominee for USCF volunteer of the month, Gregory Alexander, has been identified as her alleged accomplice in the break in. Mr. Alexander's home was searched on February 4, 2009 by the U.S. Secret Service under a search warrant issued by a federal judge. Materials were removed from his home for examination by the Secret Service.
There is presently an action pending in the Illinois courts to remove Polgar and Truong from the USCF board
for cause. Transparency helps prevent these situations from developing in the first place.

The USCF deserves better. I pledge to do better.

Anonymous said...

Another question that could have been asked is about Mr. Lafferty's relatively short tenure on the board of the Massachusetts Chess Federation. I heard he was on the board for a year or less and then resigned under controversial circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Interesting interview, thanks. But what on earth was the motivation for your final footnote, "*who is unambiguously against both rape and child prostitution". Do you know many people who are in favor or rape and child prostitution? Is there some context here I'm totally missing or do you just spend lots of free time hanging out in prisons?

Anonymous said...

Google all the candidates for EB and read through the results. You'll figure it out.

Another question for this candidate: Given your limited rated tournament experience (8 to date) and the fact that most of those tournaments were in Massachusetts or an adjoining state, how do you feel you can represent the thousands of USCF members who have played in 100s if not thousands of tournaments around the country?

Brian Lafferty said...

Anon wrote:
Another question that could have been asked is about Mr. Lafferty's relatively short tenure on the board of the Massachusetts Chess Federation. I heard he was on the board for a year or less and then resigned under controversial circumstances.

----------------------
I served for more than a year on the MACA board. I resigned because a long time non-attending board member showed up at a meeting and physically threatened me. He was immediately censured by the board and threatened with ejection if he did not behave himself. The person in question announced that he would be seeking the Presidency of MACA. I chose to reign immediately and several other board members have stated that they will resign if this person is elected President.

I continue as the Coordinator for MACA's Living Memorial Chess Fund as well as in several other capacities. The current President of MACA convinced me to remain on the ballot for the board in the upcoming MACA election and serve if she is re-elected. I agreed that I would.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's me, but I'm seeing a whole separated at birth thing with Al Franken. Am I the only one?

http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&um=1&q=al+franken&sa=N&start=0&ndsp=18

EB

Anonymous said...

Brian Lafferty's Resume:

American International College
Springfield, MA

Adjunct Professor February 2007 to Present

- Teach graduate level course in grant writing and fund raising for the Masters in Public Administration program.

Solutions Consulting Longmeadow/Andover, MA

Principal January 2003 to June, 2008

- Assist not-for-profit organizations achieve their strategic and financial goals

Hampden County District Attorney's Office Springfield, MA

Assistant District Attorney March 2001 to March 2003

- Acted exclusively in legal education and anti-violence outreach in the Springfield Public Schools.

- Taught the program to more than 500 students each semester with positive responses from many children at risk.

De la Salle High School-
New Orleans, LA

Civics Teacher August 1997 to January 2001

- Full time teacher of Civics and Law.

- Developed and taught a course in daily legal living skills for high school students that was the most popular academic elective in the school.

Chalmette Middle School Chalmette, LA

Teacher September 1996 to May 1997

- Taught language arts and reading to 7th and 8th grade students, including students at risk of dropping out of school.

City of New York-New York, NY

Administrative Law Judge
December 1989 to July 1994

- Conducted trials of Civil Service employees charged with disciplinary matters, including drug use and corruption in the workplace. Commissioned by Mayors Koch, Dinkins and Guliani.

Herzfeld and Rubin -New York, NY

Associate Attorney September 1988 to December 1989

- Corporate litigation.

Anonymous said...

As someone posted Mr. Lafferty's resume, curious about the apparent two year gap between July 1994 when he left position of ALJ in NYC and Sept. 1996 when he started teaching middle school in Louisiana. Also looks like there was a two-month overlap while he was at District Attorney's office in Mass. and then started a consulting business (Jan 2003 to March 2003). Is that normal?

gurdonark said...

Elizabeth:

Thank you for posting this interview. I think it's good to read a question and answer presentation by candidates in this way.

Bill Brock said...

Anonymous said...

As someone posted Mr. Lafferty's resume, curious about the apparent two year gap between July 1994 when he left position of ALJ in NYC and Sept. 1996 when he started teaching middle school in Louisiana. Also looks like there was a two-month overlap while he was at District Attorney's office in Mass. and then started a consulting business (Jan 2003 to March 2003). Is that normal?


Were I a USCF member, I would not be voting for Mr. Lafferty for the Board, for reasons previously implied elsewhere. Having said that, I do think that candidates, including Mr. Lafferty, are entitled to have a private life. (What is not on one's résumé is part of one's private life.) A seat in Congress is not at stake, but rather a seat on the board of a bleeping board game association.

As Mr. Lafferty remained admitted to the NY Bar, it is reasonable to assume that there were no ethical issues related to the gap in his résumé. Were he a fabulist like Paul Truong, he could have invented some impressive position to plug the ancient gap.

Good people are reluctant to become involved with USCF because their reputations have been called into question baselessly by USCF members.

Who replaces them as candidates? The not-so-good people we've had to tolerate in recent years....

Anonymous said...

When most people apply for a job, they have to explain gaps in their resumes to potential employers. By posting his resume on his campaign website, Mr. Lafferty is, in effect, running on his resume so I think the question is a reasonable one. That said, I could care less about his personal life as long as he doesn't flaunt it on his web site like at least one other candidate.

ATH2044 said...

I think a gap on the resume of a prospective USCF EB member is inherently less likely to be a negative than it might be were the job something like a corporate middle manager or engineer. In the case of the USCF Exec Board, it may actually be preferable to select an individual with a more varied background than one who simply displays the typical unbroken stream of similar employment even when accompanied by increasing responsibility. It might not be a bad idea to elect someone who's taken a year or two off from his primary career to expand his horizons. That doesn't include spending time in a penitentiary, but it could include things like circumnavigating the globe in a hot air balloon which would likely be a big turn off in a typical corporate setting.

Bill Brock said...

Would Elizabeth be willing to interview El Gallo from "The Fantasticks"?

ATH2044 said...

Bill, I suspect Elizabeth would be willing to interview anyone who'll send her an email. Unless of course they happen to be somewhat ambiguous in their positions concerning rape and child prostitution.

Anonymous said...

ATH: Good point but his reaume already reflects time taken off from his first career. Associate in law firm for one year. ALJ for 5 years (in itself somewhat unusual to go from 1st year lawyer to ALJ). Teacher (points in his favor for going from law to teaching) for 4 1/2 years. Two year gap. Back to law (can't blame him, probably needed to make more money and/or teacher burnout). Then consulting for non-profits (how many clients?) If he took the two years off to go build houses in Central America, more power to him.

Bill Brock said...

This is El Gallo's big number in the first act:

http://tinyurl.com/d3b28s

ATH2044 said...

I have a feeling Ms. Vicary would even object to both the "Romantic rape" & the "rape polite", as appealing as they may sound, so El Gallo would probably have to be content to post position papers on his own blog.
FWIW, I have more questions about the "consulting" position on Brian's resume than the gap, but I think the whole thing is a bit of a red herring because he may have other unresolved issues which I don't yet understand well enough to make a decision. With the pending litigation, this will be an important election & I don't think we can afford to screw it up.

Brian Lafferty said...

Anon wrote:When most people apply for a job, they have to explain gaps in their resumes to potential employers. By posting his resume on his campaign website, Mr. Lafferty is, in effect, running on his resume so I think the question is a reasonable one. That said, I could care less about his personal life as long as he doesn't flaunt it on his web site like at least one other candidate.
------------------------------

Well, let's see. Before relocating to New Orleans with my ex-wife who had matched a surgery residency at Tulane, I did a bicycle camping trip for a month or so up in Newfoundland. Amazing place, Newfoundland. Wonderful people and one of the last frontiers on Earth in some ways.

Once in New Orleans, I let le bon temps roulet for a while. The Big Easy is a marvelous place to decompress from the world of NY litigation. I eventually decided to try teaching and did that by substitute teaching in St. Bernard Parish which landed me a full time position teaching middle school there when a teacher had to leave for reasons I can not state publicly because it is nobody's business why he left.

After the DA's legal education/anti-violence gig, I did some relaxing, contemplated my navel some and then got back to the world of work.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that USCF members are supposed to just vote on candidates based upon their resume and unimportant things such as their rating or that they like to pet dogs and kiss babies ? It would be nice to see a candidate take some strong positions in which they prioritize the issues facing the federation and give actual solutions. I am not interested in someone just proclaiming their honesty and ability to get along with others. USCF is in crisis mode and needs strong honest leadership. It would be a good start to have a decent chess magazine with a substantial amount of chess instead of a chess vanity magazine filled with infomercials.

Anonymous said...

I don't think rating is important per se but tournament history as a player or TD is interesting as it tends to show which candidates have demonstrated a serious and relatively longstanding commitment to chess and which candidates are dilettantes who might move on to other interests before their terms are up.

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