The board of directors of the Game Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA) has rejected a call by three candidates for a new Retailer Division board election to replace the one held at GAMA Trade Show last month, GAMA Executive Director John Stacy confirmed to ICv2.

The three candidates, David Wheeler of Dragon’s Lair in Austin, Texas, Nicholas Coss of Top Deck Games in Westmont, New Jersey, and Stephen Kirwan of Kirwan’s Game Store in Catskill, New York argued that a new election should be held because the requirement in the GRD bylaws for a secret ballot was not met.

Ballots were preprinted with the store name and distributed to GAMA Trade Show retailer attendees at registration and then collected at the GRD Annual Meeting, held on Tuesday night, March 12.  There was also a line at the bottom of the ballot asking the member to print their name and initial the ballot.  This ballot format has been used "for at least four or five years," Stacy said In an email.

The candidates for the election were:

Jim Bruso, Queens Domain
Nicholas Coss, Top Deck Games – Westmont, NJ
Josh Forman, Game On! – Prescott, AZ
Stephen Kirwan, Kirwan's Game Store - Catskill, NY
John Stephens, Total Escape Games – Bromfield, CO
Dawn Studebaker, The Game Annex – Fort Wayne, IN
David Wheeler, Dragon's Lair LLC – Austin, TX

Votes were tabulated by GAMA Board President Stephan Brissaud, Board VP Anne-Marie DeWitt, GRD Secretary Jennifer Ward, and Stacy.  That’s a change from past years, according to Stacy, after around two dozen complaints came in after the 2018 election asking that a GRD board member be included in the tabulations (in 2018 a GAMA board member and the Executive Director tabulated the votes).

The winners of the election were the three incumbents: board Chair Dawn Studebaker, Vice-Chair John Stephens, and board member Josh Forman.  The ballots are being retained for one year in the custody of the Executive Director, per election Guidelines, Stacy told us.

In his request that a new election be held, Wheeler wrote, "I do not believe that any member of the GRD intended for this to happen (in fact I doubt that the GRD was actually involved in the printing of the ballots) but the fact that it has happened and that so many people have reached out to me, suggests that if a new vote is not held, and held in the proper manner, that the ongoing legitimacy of the newly re-elected incumbents will be continually questioned.

"Furthermore, it seems possible that at a time when people are actually disgruntled, that someone will attempt to call for a new election during a time of stress, citing the irregularities of the 2019 vote in order to call for a re-vote at that time.  I'd rather put this to bed before any of that occurs, so as to ensure the legitimacy of whatever board is elected."  Wheeler also requested that the ballots from the March 12 election be destroyed.

We asked Stacy for the organization’s response.  "The issue was first raised with the GRD board who sought advice from our legal counsel," Stacy wrote.  "He reviewed the election procedures, the GRD guidelines, the GAMA bylaws and precedent set by previous GRD elections and determined that a new election was not necessary as the process used for secret ballot election meets GAMA’s guideline standards and all pertinent laws.  This information was relayed to the GRD board as well as the full GAMA board who reviewed the matter and concurred with our attorney’s recommendation.  This decision was conveyed to the three candidates who had raised concerns."

In a response to GRD Board Chair Studebaker, Wheeler emphasized that while he had no problems with anyone on the board, his feelings on the need for a new election hadn’t changed.  "I have no animus towards anyone on the board," he wrote.  "I do feel very strongly that elections should be held in the manner set out in the Guidelines.

We also asked Stacy about another issue regarding the board election (not raised by any candidate), as to whether Studebaker could be a member of the organization, as it appears from public records that the store she represents has a revoked Registered Retail Merchant Certificate and so has no license to operate in the state of Indiana.  "[T]his matter was discussed by the board last fall and the Game Annex is a member in good standing with GAMA," Stacy responded.

With regard to the election, the key question seems to be the definition of a "secret ballot."  Wheeler and the other protesting candidates feel that no-one should know who each retailer voted for, while it appears to be the position of the organization that even though the vote tabulators may know who voted for whom, as long as other voters don’t have that information, the ballot is "secret."  And for now, the position of the GAMA board has prevailed.