Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University. This week, Scott Thorne looks at today’s GAMA Membership Meeting and the Executive Director decision on the agenda.

Last week, several columns and press releases hit the wires regarding the current situation embroiling the upper echelons of the Game Manufacturer’s Association, the primary trade group for the specialty board/role-playing game industry.  The GAMA Board of Directors will hold a special membership meeting to discuss the recent decision to not renew current Executive Director John Ward’s contract.  The meeting will take place in Union Station Ballroom C of the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Monday, September 24, at 1 p.m. Eastern time.  According to the agenda, the only thing up for discussion is a discussion of the BOD’s reasoning for not renewing Ward’s contract.  ICv2 had several articles and columns looking at various aspects of the situation including the decision of terminated Deputy Director Angela Ward to seek outside counsel in the matter of her termination, BOD member at large Jeff Tidball’s column arguing that GAMA may need a different director going forward, GAMA Board Secretary Brian Dalrymple’s viewpoint that GAMA was hasty in choosing not to renew Ward’s contract and John Ward’s response to Tidball’s column.  And that’s not even bringing up the whole Brissaud situation.  Incidentally, looking at the columns in the Pro section of ICv2, I found it interesting that no one had commented on them.

For what they are worth, here are my thoughts on the matter:

Why?  I never had heard a good reason as to why Ward’s contract was not renewed.  The decision was made in closed session and board members have been pretty tight-lipped as to why it was made.  The closest I have seen to a reason was a paragraph in Titball’s column under the section headed Executive Director, which reads:

"The board’s decision arose in a closed meeting of the board, so the details and voting record of individual board members are confidential.  The board’s consensus in recent discussion has been that the decisions made by the body are the decisions of the entire body, and so it would be inappropriate to publish a list reciting the votes of each member.

"(Side note: This is based on very recent dialogue, the ultimate resolution of which is still pending.  The question arose in the first place when a previous board decision led to a board member’s business being threatened

What that decision was is unclear at best and, under current GAMA bylaws, the minutes are only officially available through request by a publishing or manufacturing member, though Board Secretary Dalrymple has let me know that no request from any member to see BOD minutes has ever been denied and there are plans to revisit the bylaws to accept requests for minutes from all members, as well as place all minutes on the organization’s website.

The other thing that strikes me about Tidball’s call for a new ED is that, while the organization is now financially solvent, primarily due to Ward’s stewardship, he sees the organization needing to undertake a number of activities to fulfill its mission, it only performs two or three of them well and "GAMA could perhaps do all of those things given enough time, but it can’t do any of those things without the will to do substantially more than put on two conventions a year.  In my experience, that will is simply not there at present."  However, he never indicates why he feels that Ward does not have the skill set to carry them out.

Meanwhile, Dalrymple also points out the four missions of GAMA and argues "John has asked for board guidance with all of these goals, particularly with market growth," and further "John has not failed GAMA. Quite the opposite - he should be credited with its success.  He has proven himself to be capable and effective."  The GAMA Annual report would appear to bear this out.

I saw no evidence of any of the turmoil in Ward’s demeanor.  At the Alliance Open House, I found him professional as always, promoting GAMA and discussing the organization’s activities with the enthusiasm he has always shown.  I do hope to get some greater understanding as to the reasons for the decision to not renew his contract after today’s membership meeting.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of The author is a long time member of the GAMA Retail Division.