Letter from Duncan Shaw
Dear fellow NPA members,
Under the watch of Chairman of the Board Barry Springer and Secretary-Treasurer James Newburn, the administration of NPA has degenerated to the point that is incapable of putting on our annual conference — for the first time in 20 years. It has lost the confidence of a large segment of its members. Two of NPA’s key people, Greg Volk and David de Hilster, have resigned from the board of directors. Why did they resign? Because of their treatment by Springer and Newman.
Here is how I view the situation.
The NPA is an organization that values free thinking in a world of establishment dogma. We do not march lock-step in the presentation of our individual ideas. Rather, we encourage originality and the courage to present our views and exchange them with others. The NPA, as an institution of this nature, is worth preserving.
Greg Volk acknowledges it was a mistake to bring Springer and Newman into the NPA management. He did not anticipate that they would bring a management style that would lead to the resignations of himself and of David from the board. He did not realize that Springer and Newburn would wrongly accuse David of dishonesty for claiming compensation for work he did for the NPA. Nor did he realize that their resignations would put Springer essentially in control of the NPA. Personally, I am appalled by the way Springer and Newburn have attacked David de Hilster’s character.
Where do I fit into the present situation? An NPA conference was scheduled to be held in Albuquerque earlier this year in March. I planned to attend the conference and submitted a paper for presentation. Upon receipt of my paper, Springer wrote me and said that the conference would not be taking place because of problems with the computer system, but that it would be scheduled for a date later on in the year. In his reply, Springer invited me to attend a conference of the Electric Universe. I declined the invitation.
Since then, Springer and his administration have not scheduled a 2014 conference. And, when Greg and David attempted to arrange a conference (for July 31 to Aug. 2), they were met with a letter from a lawyer retained by Springer and Newburn threatening legal action.
The present administration has had nothing to do with the regular Saturday morning video presentations, an important mainstay of the NPA. The work of continuing the Saturday conferences has been done by Greg and David, not by Springer.
Springer has brought a management style that is disdainful of the general membership. He and I have had extensive correspondence concerning the right of members to elect the directors of the NPA. While we disagree on that issue, what has emerged from the correspondence is his attitude toward the NPA members, the people whose efforts are the very essence of the organization. It is as if Springer considers that he is in charge of the members and that they are not worthy of being entrusted with the responsibility of electing our directors. He asserts that the directors only are the legal members of the NPA. Yes, I repeat that he asserts that only the directors are members of the NPA. He bases this assertion upon a decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals that does not decide that point and is on entirely different facts. He goes on to assert that the members of the former NPA did not even become factual members of the new NPA on the ground that there was no “formal succession agreement”. This is sheer nonsense. With the advent of the new company in early 2012, the members of the former NPA were in fact treated by the management as members at the NPA. They continued as members on the NPA website, and were recognized as members at the 2012 and 2013 NPA conferences. If one accepts Springer’s argument, does it follow that the new NPA has no right to the assets of the former NPA because of the lack of a formal succession agreement? Springer cannot have it both ways.
In our correspondence, Springer describes the NPA members as a “social group”. It is his way to avoid recognizing them as members under the Corporations laws of the state of Maryland. In his email to me of July 16, 2014, he poses a hypothetical example of a charitable soup kitchen organization that includes as members the indigents who receive the meals. He suggests that the indigents, as members, might take over the organization and lead it to ruin. He was dead serious about the application of his example to our members who claim the right to elect the directors. My reply was short: ”Your attitude toward members indicates to me that having you as a director and chairman of the board was and is a mistake.”
I interject to say that if anyone wishes to see and review the series of correspondence between Springer and me, do let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will be pleased to oblige. It sets out our respective legal positions on the right of the members to elect the directors. Also, it sheds light on Springer, himself, including his management style and his attitude toward the members of the NPA.
I have known Greg Volk and David de Hilster since 2009 when I joined the NPA and presented my first paper at the 16th annual conference held at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. The presentations were chaired by Cynthia Kolb Whitney. I will never forget her kindness during my first foray into presenting a scientific paper before a live audience. Since then, I have attended several conferences and presented papers. During this time, I became aware of the immense work done by Greg, David, Cynthia and others to put on the conferences.
In my view, there is a troubling power acquisition problem that Springer brings to the organization. There have been three separate sets of bylaws (Dec. 10, 2012, April 8, 2013, and Jan. 3, 2014), each of which reflects his assumption of increased power and rank. The first bylaw provides for an Executive Vice-President who is the chief executive officer (CEO), with authority for the daily operation and administration of the NPA. The second by-law authorizes the executive vice-president to act as the chairman of the board and lead and coordinate the NPA conference planning process. The third set creates the official position of Board Chair. These bylaws track Springer’s acquisition of power and rank. The by-laws also provide for a self-electing board of directors, with the members having no say in who will be the directors.
In the meantime, the actual business of the NPA has ground to a halt. There has been no annual conference. The Saturday morning sessions are run by Greg Volk and David de Hilster, not by the NPA. We receive vague promises from Springer of holding a conference at some future date, and of the board considering the possibility of “some or all” of our directors being elected by the members. In my view, we are not well served by individuals of their management style and who do not have a real sense of what the members want the NPA to be. Speaking for myself, and hopefully for members of like mind, I believe the NPA should not be run by individuals who alienate a majority of our valued members.
I ask that you join with me and other members of like mind to support the motion of non-confidence in Barry Springer and Jim Newburn, calling upon them to resign. I also ask you to fill in the survey that seeks out the views of the members as to what they wish from the NPA.