On Friday (10/31), Craig Ferguson, the Director of Planet Bluegrass, which produces the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival and RockyGrass in Colorado, resigned his position as Vice Chair after having been informed that he had missed several board meetings in 2014.
The IBMA Bylaws indicate that a Director shall be removed if they miss two consecutive meetings without having been excused. This is a common clause in corporate organizing documents to guard against a “do nothing” Director holding a board seat hostage.
In Ferguson’s case, this occurred during the time he was making repairs to the Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons, CO, which had been devastated by severe flooding along the front range of the Rocky Mountains several months prior. It seems likely that these absences would have been excused by the Board had he exercised his right to appeal for them to be reclassified, but in a message to the IBMA-L member email group on Friday, he stated that he had chosen not to do so.
There is a degree of uncertainty as to whether this serves as a resignation, or whether the full process must now be followed, which involves a letter being sent from the Board Secretary, Regina Derzon, to Ferguson, and then waiting 30 days for him to issue an appeal. The mood of the Board, however, seems to be that he has resigned.
All this comes after he and Board Chair Jon Weisberger had found it difficult to work together during the month Ferguson has been seated as the vice chair. Weisberger had reported to the Board that he was unwilling to continue working with Ferguson, and was prepared to resign should that be the wish of the Board.
The issue came to a head when Ferguson was notified that this letter would be sent, which prompted his statement on the email group on Friday.
“In the spring, I missed two consecutive meetings, thus, persuant to Section 6 of the Bylaws, I was ‘removed’ as a Director. Though the Board COULD HAVE excused my absence, and likely would have due to my well documented ‘act of god’ here at disaster central, the board did not. Consequently I was at that point removed as a Director. What logically follows is that when the Board elected me to ‘vice-chair’, I was not eligible and the board now recognizes the vacancy.
The Chair has instructed the Secretary to provide me notice of the absence and the opportunity to ask the board to reconsider within thirty days of the transmittal of said notice. I’m not going to do that.
Due to what I consider an arbitrary and capricious application of the rules (has anyone ever been removed by this technique), I’ve likewise chosen to terminate the membership of Planet Bluegrass in the association.”
This has caused some dissension within the Board, and among long time members who communicate through the email group. Dwight Worden, who recently served as a Board rep for bluegrass associations, promptly resigned his lifetime IBMA membership, and other members have voiced concern.
Weisberger has today issued a personal statement in which he explains his understanding of the process, his frustration working with Ferguson, and concluding with an acceptance of ultimate responsibility.
“I regret the action I took, which was based solely on my understanding of the Bylaw’s meaning and made without consultation with the Executive Committee or the Board, especially since it turns out that there are differences of opinion in how to interpret its provisions. In retrospect, I would have preferred that the Board direct its attention exclusively to considering the real questions of how and with what leadership it wanted to move forward, rather than to give any attention to what has ultimately been a distraction.
And I accept the responsibility, and therefore apologize, for creating the distraction.
The IBMA and its Board have a lot of work to do – as our Treasurer, Elizabeth Wightman mentioned yesterday, complete financial reports on World of Bluegrass are coming soon; an Executive Director must be hired; and there are a number of other key items that need quick progress – and a lot of opportunities as well as challenges ahead. It’s time we get going to meet them, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Since there is less than one year remaining on Ferguson’s term, the Board may appoint someone to serve the remainder of his term. They will then need to hold a new election among themselves for a Vice Chair.
We will report anything else we learn over the next few days regarding the resolution of this leadership struggle at the IBMA.