This past Saturday, the Council (aka board) of the American Association for State and Local History met in Maine for one of their three regular meetings each year. It’s been a tough few months due to the discovery of embezzlement and fraud within the organization, so this meeting had been preceded by nearly a dozen additional meetings of the Council and several committees by conference call to deal with various aspects related to the situation, potential threats to the organization, and improvements to our current financial management by reviewing and revising various policies, procedures, and practices. This meeting adopted revised financial policies and procedures; adopted revised codes of ethics for board, staff, and organization; adopted a revised conflict of interest policy for board and staff; and discussed how the by-laws may need to revise the finance and audit committee responsibilities as well reconsider how Council members are elected to ensure we have sufficient people on board with financial skills. We also began working more strategically, looking longterm to identify priorities so we can preserve those programs that matter most to members and most effectively fulfill the mission. History News and the annual meeting/conference rose to the top as expected, but no final decisions will be made until we’ve received additional responses through a sampling of interviews with members this summer. Our next regular meeting will be in October during the conference in Salt Lake City and you can expect we’ll have much to announce during the business meeting. Our goal is to be as open and transparent about the situation as possible, balancing it with the need for confidentiality while in the midst of a law suit.
This meeting was generously hosted by the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine and their executive director Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, a fellow Council member. They provided us with a comfortable meeting place as well as refreshments and lunch. Cinnamon also went out of her way to arrange for optional activities before and after the meeting so we could learn more about the community’s history (we are AASLH, after all). Even though it’s an additional expense of time and money (Council members pay for their own travel expenses, except refreshments during the meeting), I try to include these whenever possible because we’re often treated to behind-the-scenes or insider perspectives, plus I have some time to talk with other Council members individually to learn about their organizations. This time was no exception. On Saturday night, I had a traditional lobster dinner sitting with Tonya Matthews, Susan Tissot, and Lynne Ireland and the next afternoon went out into the Gulf of Maine to look for whales (but only saw one small minke whale and two puffins, alas). I also gathered up a half dozen stories for future blog posts by spending some extra time on this trip visiting historic sites and meeting with friends and colleagues (look for tea time in colonial New England, interpreting gardens at Strawbery Banke, and a slide show of the new American wing of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts).
Thanks Max, for the update on AASLH issues, but I only wish that the organization and its leadership was doing this on their own website or blog, or in emails to members. I think it’s greatly needed. On the sadly outdated website the Hot Topics page begins with an Urgent Action Request dated 2/27/11 (no hot topics since then? I think not) and I searched fairly extensively to find any updates or additional information besides the alert on the front page of the website, dated in March. I know the staff has been under tremendous pressure during this past year, but I’d suggest that the organization’s leadership currently is falling somewhere short of that goal of transparency in terms of its own communications when information is so scarce and outdated on the website. So many thanks for keeping us up to date here!
Thanks, Linda! I’m glad this type of information is useful and your suggestion to provide more timely updates on the AASLH website is a good one.