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The 11th Frame: The USBC Board of Directors owes USBC members answers to these questions regarding 'Bullygate'

JEFF RICHGELS | Posted: Wednesday, April 11, 2018 7:00 am

When I posted this story last Friday on the decline of the United States Bowling Congress under Chad Murphy and his 'bully' behavior, I offered Murphy the opportunity to write a response that I would not edit in any way and post on my site and link to my story. He has not responded. 

I knew that the USBC Board of Directors by coincidence was holding a long-scheduled meeting on Saturday and I intended to wait until after the meeting to reach out and seek comment.

When I woke up Sunday at my near usual 3:15 a.m., I had an email from Board President Frank Wilkinson and Vice President Cathy DeSocio with a statement I attached to the original story as a PDF. That PDF is attached to this story as well and the words are the picture with this story.

Needless to say, I wanted to ask questions seeking more substantial information than a statement that said little, although I pointed out on Facebook that what it didn’t say — it didn’t offer a specific defense or endorsement of Murphy — could be seen as significant.

I counseled patience and noted that it was possible this could be a situation like in a sport where an owner issues a vote of confidence for a general manager or coach and then fires them soon after: Murphy last summer signed a new contract and if the Board wants him out, they presumably would negotiate a settlement and resignation with the threat of termination for cause.

My reply to Wilkinson and DeSocio on Sunday said I wanted to ask them some questions on the matter.

When I got no reply, I sent them another email Monday night saying they had all of Tuesday to agree to an interview before I posted this story on Wednesday.

Wilkinson responded Monday night that I was “welcome to send questions my way.”

My response was that I would be following standard protocol for journalists and would not be taking a written response to questions.

On Tuesday morning, I spoke with one of the senior editors at Capital Newspapers (where I work) who heads the local Society of Professional Journalists chapter and he confirmed that it was not proper protocol to allow written responses except in special cases such as serious criminal allegations — not the case with this story, which has been coined 'Bullygate' by some.

He did not object to offering topics/questions in writing so long as the interview was verbal. The reason for a verbal interview is to enable follow-up questions when pertinent.

I offered that to Wilkinson and DeSocio on Tuesday morning and have not heard back from them.

The result is this story providing the questions all USBC members deserve answers to from the Board of Directors, but without any answers to those who deserve answers.

The USBC does not belong to the Board. It does not belong to the executive director. It does not belong to the staff. 

It belongs to the members. And they have been getting virtually no transparency, minimal accountability and shockingly poor performance from their organization, as my story laid out in painstaking detail.

In addition, the behavior of Murphy as detailed by Neil Stremmel and Steve Wunderlich, and backed by numerous sources too intimidated to go on the record by name, as well as my personal experience, is that of a classic bully boss and almost certainly puts USBC in legal peril in an era when workplace harassment is less and less tolerated. (That aims to be my next story.)

No honorable person would ever accept that any organization should be led by any person who acts as numerous people have described Chad Murphy acting, and as I experienced. His policies become irrelevant if you accept his character and actions as executive director are as described in my story. (The accumulation of numerous credible industry people contacting me with stories similar to Stremmel and Wunderlich have made me change my view expressed in the Friday story that it would be OK for him to stay as ED if policies were changed.)

Yvonne Tison-Bennett, who has been the executive director of the Bowling Centers Association of Wisconsin since 2014 and previously served in similar positions with other organizations, said in a Facebook comment in which she emphasized that her views were her own and not those of the BCAW that:
“Most boards still have general expectations that ‘people’ (staff, volunteers, members, etc) be treated fairly and ethically . . . even if not written or specifically expressed.
What is troubling to me is that I've personally witnessed Chad's condescending arrogance towards others, including me, in public settings & meetings.
I've been around long enough to know there are often 3 sides to most situations . . . person A's . . . person B's . . . and somewhere in the middle is the truth.
Unfortunately situations such as what has been replayed by Stremmel & Wunderlich is unconscionable in any employment relationship. I have to wonder what is possibly the ‘somewhere in the middle’ especially with others corroborating the reporting by Richgels.
I feel for all involved at this point in trying to navigate forward for the betterment of USBC and those who have significant investment in the industry we're all so very passionate about.”

Below are the questions I believe the Board must answer for the membership. (If the Board wishes to answer them in writing after this story posts I will add their reply to this story.)

Does the Board dispute any of the facts in my article?

Has the Board done anything to investigate the allegations made in my story by former USBC executives/managers Steve Wunderlich and Neil Stremmel, backed by former employee Tim Robben? If not, why not?

Is the Board concerned that there are many other people with similar stories who do not feel safe speaking on the record?

Does the Board feel that current employees and/or business partners can speak out without fear of retribution?

Does the Board condone Chad Murphy’s attempt to bribe me and/or intimidate me into supporting USBC in my coverage?

Is the Board concerned that Chad Murphy’s behavior as ED puts USBC in potential legal peril in areas such as workplace harassment?

If Chad Murphy's behavior as is as described in my story, how can the Board allow him to continue as ED?

How would you characterize Chad Murphy’s leadership style?

In what ways would you change how he leads?

Are there any areas where you feel that the organization’s transparency could improve, and what actions can the organization take to improve transparency?

Do you have any plans to make Board meeting minutes available to the public, consistent with the recommendation of the USOC of nearly a year ago that USBC has not followed?

Are you familiar with the ASAE standards for association boards?

Does the USBC Board follow these standards, or any standards?

If not, why not? Are standards not important?

What documents must be signed by Board members in the area of code of conduct, conflict of interest, non-disclosure, etc.?

Can you explain how changes to the Nominating Committee procedures implemented in 2010 that gave more control to the Board and less control to the delegates, are a good thing for the organization?

Can you explain how having Chad Murphy be part of interviews of potential Board nominees is not a conflict of interest that should be forbidden, given that Board members hire and supervise the ED?

Three of the last five USBC presidents have been active proprietors. At this time, both the president and vice president are proprietors, and the ED is a former employee of BPAA. Does BPAA control USBC, as some have charged?

Proprietors Frank and Cathy DeSocio and Chad Murphy have a prior business relationship. Does it continue? Is it proper? Do the DeSocios control USBC via Chad Murphy, as some have charged?

What is the proper relationship between BPAA and USBC?

I have been told by sources that Chad Murphy seemed overly prepared for meetings when Board members came to campus to inform staff of the decision to release his predecessor Stu Upson in 2014. Did any Board members inform Chad Murphy that the news of Upson’s departure was coming?

Was any feedback obtained from staff during the process to select Chad Murphy as interim ED or during his time as interim ED?

Why was Chad Murphy allowed to make major personnel moves at the management level when he was only interim ED?

Was it a concern that someone who dropped out of college might not be the right person for the ED job when other candidates had one or even multiple college degrees?

Was having a career that was 100 percent in bowling without any outside professional experience considered a positive or negative for Chad Murphy’s candidacy?

What kind of job search was conducted when Chad Murphy was hired as ED? Was an executive search firm used? If so, please identify it and detail its recommendations.