Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Stick a fork in 'em. They're done.


















Sierra Club NYC: Stick a fork in 'em. They're done.

As the nation's largest environmental grassroots group - in theory - Sierra Club should have an especially robust presence in NYC, the nation's largest city.  As discussed previously on this blog, other large cities have vibrant and dynamic Sierra Club groups, which can support SC national programs.

For decades, the SC NYC Group was controlled by a clique of longtime members who maintained a tight grip on their official roles, but through flagrant incompetence drove the Group into the ground, maintaining its form as an elaborate parasitical charade while doing very little.  

 
I tried turning the Group around when I was chair, during 2008 - 10.  The old guard ran a campaign based on fraud and libel, defeating me and my slate of newcomers, detailed ad nauseum on this blog. The evidence was sent to the SC National Board, which could have removed the leaders of the old guard.  Instead, they misguidedly opted for lenience, leaving the old guard in charge for many years.  


In 2016, the old guard tried to incite a rebellion of other Sierra Club state chapters against the National.  Finally National woke up and threw three of the old guard's leaders out.  With the SC NYC Executive Committee down to a skeleton crew, would its new leader - picked by the old guard - try to rebuild the SC brand in NYC - or continue the charade while doing little or nothing?

An ExCom election is coming up this winter.  A visit to the SC NYC website reveals that the Group reasonably promotes the programs of other organizations, as it has has no programs of its own, besides a series of presentations not related to Group programs or organizing initiatives.   I asked the SC NYC ExCom, copying NY State Chapter leaders, a number of reasonable questions about its plans moving forward. They are recopied below.

The current chair (see her direct quote below) replied that the Group does keep minutes, which could demonstrate what the ExCom or the Group is actually doing.  Really? Several times over recent years I was told that Jim Lane, the former secretary of the NYC Group had the minutes but they were never accessible due to his computer problems.  Since Lane, the leader of the old guard, was expelled from the Club, it will be deeply surprising if any of the minutes that were allegedly kept ever materialize.  Or if they did, what light they would shed on Group activities. I asked the Group to post the minutes on its website, if they actually have them.  Don't hold your breath.

Why should anyone care? If you're a Sierra Club member or donor in NYC, the cut of your dues going to National activities are more likely to be competently spent than the portion than whatever fraction subsidizes the dysfunctional NYC Group. 


Unless there is a determined effort to rebuild the NYC Group, it is a liability for SC National and the NY State Chapter.  I suggested unplugging it. 

The NYC Group ExCom supposedly found candidates to fill its vacancies at its election this winter.  Maybe in 2017 those new members will come in and actually do something useful. SC members have a right to meet the candidates, hand-picked by representatives of the old guard, and learn directly what plans any of them might have.  Again, I'm not holding my breath. 

My aim is to encourage open discussion.  Contact NYC Group, NY State Chapter, and National leaders.  Voice your concerns. 

If you're not satisfied with their answers, consider directing your financial support to other groups.


= = = = = = =

Dan Miner <beyondoilnyc@gmail.com>

Allison, thanks for your reply.

While I occasionally get emails from National, I have not received any emails from the NYC Group.

I'm glad to hear that the ExCom keeps minutes. At some Excom meetings over the last few years, I and other ExCom members asked about minutes and were told they were not accessible. 

I'm glad to hear that you plan to put more content on the Group's website.  When can you recover and post all recent ExCom minutes on the site?
Group, Chapter and National leaders all have an interest in supporting the rebuilding of the NYC Group. I encourage all of you to discuss the questions I raised in my September and October emails below - which have so far not been addressed.

If this Group was in a thinly populated rural area, its lack of activity and transparency might be of low priority for the national Sierra Club.  However, since the NYC Group has the capacity to work collaboratively with the Chapter and National to promote Club programs in the largest city in the country, upgrading NYC Group activities is a matter of particular concern.
I look forward to hearing more about Group plans.  The website says that the next meeting of the ExCom is on Nov. 10. Is that correct, and will it take place at the office location of One Penn Plaza, Suite 6285 in Manhattan? [No one ever responded, which makes me wonder if the actual ExCom meetings take place at undisclosed times and locations. ] Thanks in advance for confirming this.
Dan


= = = = = =

Oct 14 (4 days ago)


to Allison, blaneweber, hungryhiker, eadie2act4water, Thelma, Gary, alan, Antuan, Irene, Thomas, lisa.dicaprio, Carl, Erin, Don, kulicksw, hcohen5608, financial, legaladvisor, shlawr2, Kathryn,

Allison Tupper

No, the NYC Group is not defunct.  The nominations will be announced in the City Sierran to be mailed this fall and were announced to our active members.  We’re working on getting more current info on the web site.  We promote national and chapter activities by email, whether they are on the local group web site or not.  All ExCom members attend meetings regularly.  Yes, we keep minutes.

From: Dan Miner [mailto:beyondoilnyc@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, October 12, 2016 5:56 PM
To: Tupper Allison <AllisonTupper@verizon.net>; blaneweber@aol.com; hungryhiker@aol.com; eadie2act4water@aol.com; Thelma Fellows <thelmafellows@gmail.com>; Gary Nickerson <gary@gwntec.com>; alan jay gerson <alanjgerson@gmail.com>; Antuan Cannon <antuan@envirolution1.com>; Irene Van Slyke <irene.vanslyke@verizon.net>
Cc: Thomas Wysmuller <tom@colderside.com>; lisa.dicaprio@nyu.edu; Carl Arnold <carlarnold@mac.com>; Erin Riddle <riddleriddle@gmail.com>; dhughes171@gmail.com; kulicksw@lemoyne.edu; hcohen5608@earthlink.net; financial@newyork.sierraclub.org; legaladvisor@newyork.sierraclub.org; shlawr2@aol.com; Kathryn Bartholomew <ecogreenwolf@gmail.com>
Subject: Re: Requesting update on SC NYC ExCom candidates - and Group activities

Oct 12 (6 days ago)


to me, blaneweber, hungryhiker, eadie2act4water, Thelma, Gary, alan, Antuan, Irene, Thomas, lisa.dicaprio, Carl, Erin, dhughes171, kulicksw, hcohen5608, financial, legaladvisor, shlawr2, Kathryn


= = = = = = = =

Dan Miner <beyondoilnyc@gmail.com>

Alison,
In mid-September I asked you and the ExCom for an update on the NYC Group's activities.  I didn't receive a reply.  My questions - recopied below - are still pertinent for me and the many other Sierra Club members in NYC who you represent.
Fortunately, some updates are still being made to the Group's website.  Soon after my Sept. 14 email, the information about the Group's ExCom election and the request for candidates originally put up in July was removed.  However, the home page still has a link for the Spring program on the right side of the page.
I am glad to see the October 6 event from National's Beyond Coal Campaign listed.  I found out about this event a few weeks back from an activist friend and asked why the NYC Group was not promoting it.  This is especially important as the NYC Group still seems to have no current activities of its own, asides from hosting presentations at the Seafarer's House. At the very least it should be promoting National and Chapter activities accessible to members in NYC.
In September I asked a number of specific questions about the current and planned activities of the NYC Group. Since it appears that the Group has become even less functional than it was before, I encourage ExCom members to do some soul searching and brief Chapter and National leaders. 
Do Group and Chapter leaders have any plans to resuscitate the moribund NYC Group? Did Club leaders find any capable members willing to run for the ExCom, and to take charge of this important and extremely challenging project?
I suggest that if neither the Group nor the Chapter has a credible plan for rebuilding the NYC Group, the pretense should be mercifully ended.  The Group should be declared dead, and either dissolved or disbanded, or whatever is its equivalent within Club procedures. Any funds marked for the NYC Group should be redirected to the Chapter or National campaigns active in NYC. 

Perhaps this request will stimulate useful discussion, and more importantly, action.  I would appreciate any reply.

Dan

Oct 12 (6 days ago)


to Erin, dhughes171, kulicksw, hcohen5608, financial, legaladvisor, shlawr2, Kathryn, Tupper, blaneweber, hungryhiker, eadie2act4water, Thelma, Gary, alan, Antuan, Irene, Thomas, lisa.dicaprio, Carl


= = = = = = = = =

Dan Miner <beyondoilnyc@gmail.com>

Allison,
The Group web site still contains the request for ExCom candidates that was posted back in July.  According to it, the nominating committee was to have finalized its decision at the end of August. I have a number of questions that I think are relevant to the Group as a whole. I hope your answers will stimulate discussion among the ExCom and concerned members.
  • When is the Nominating Committee planning to announce its approved candidates on the website?
  • If the committee plans to keep their identity secret until the printed newsletter containing the ballots is sent out, how does that serve the interest of Group members?
  • Are approved candidates expected to actively carry out work on behalf of the Group before the election, and if not, why not?
  • The homepage states the election will fill four seats with two-year terms and the unexpired year of any vacancies. As of this month, exactly how many seats is that?
  • Did the Nominating Committee receive a number of candidate applications equal or greater to the current number of vacant seats?
  • If the Committee approved a number of candidates equal to the number of vacant seats, it would create the appearance that the election will be a procedural formality and that Group members have no choice in electing ExCom members, who are in practice selected by the Nominating Committee.
  • I believe the Group by-laws have a provision that ExCom members who miss a certain number of meetings should be removed.  How do you plan to address ExCom members in name only who don't attend meetings or actually do work on behalf of the Group?
  • Does the ExCom keep minutes of its meetings, containing a record of its decisions and attendees? If not, why not?
  • If ExCom meeting minutes do exist, I request that they be uploaded to the website.

The home page has outdated information on upcoming events - citing the Group's spring event series. There is no information on the website about the fall event series which was recently mailed out to members via postcard. Who is now responsible for maintaining the website?
The home page contains links to a Dakota pipeline solidarity event and the calendar of Lower East Side Ecology Center events. However, the Group's Issues and Actions page is empty.  Does the Group have any activities or is it working on any issues? 

Perhaps the Group's empty Issues and Actions page is a more accurate reflection of the Group's activity than the Contacts and Committees page, which alleges that the Group has over 15 committees. For many years the Group has maintained the facade of committees that exist in name only with no apparent activity.  I would encourage the ExCom to either post its actual activities on the site or remove the misleading and deceptive committees-in-name-only.
Former ExCom members used to have a solid voting bloc on the ExCom in support of maintaining the many non-existent committees.  Now that they are gone, you can choose to follow in their patterns out of habit, and maintain the denial - or rebuild what has long been a defunct Group.

I don't think the NYC Group can be rebuilt without first acknowledging - at least internally - that it has been defunct for many years.  What do you think about this?
What do you, current ExCom members, and approved ExCom candidates plan to do in order to reactivate the NYC Group?
For the record, I volunteered to assist in this effort by applying as a candidate for the ExCom.  The Nominating Committee turned down my application.

Again, I hope this stimulates useful discussion.  I look forward to your reply.

Dan

Sep 14


to Tupper, Irene, Antuan, hungryhiker, Thelma, eadie2act4water, alan, Gary, blaneweber, Thomas, lisa.dicaprio, Carl



 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sierra Club National Board Finally Removes Leader of NYC Group's Old Guard

Congratulations to the Sierra Club National Board for finally expelling Jim Lane, the Machiavellian mastermind of the NYC Group's old guard.  With its voting bloc on the Group's executive committee finally broken, the corroded and dysfunctional  NYC Group can be revived, if new activists can be convinced to step in.

First, a brief review of the latest dispute in the decades-long conflict between the NYC Group and the National Board. Few will care about it, but it is important context.  Then we'll turn to the consequences of this long conflict for the Sierra Club in New York City and State

Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental group in the US, is very hierarchical and is run by strict rules, which are occasionally enforced. There are ten regional SC groups in NY State.  Each group sends representatives to the executive committee of the state chapter. 
 

(New York State's Sierra Club chapter is called the Atlantic Chapter, because of an old tradition.  I think it would be sensible to rename it the New York State Chapter, but I bet that doesn't ever come up in discussion. )

Until recently, the number of representatives each local SC group can have on its state SC chapter varied with the number of Sierra Club members within its jurisdiction.  Because of NYC's massive population compared to the rest of the state, the NYC Group was always able to stack the Chapter executive committee with its members and allies.  Lane didn't have to be Group or Chapter chair, as long as he was secretary and rules compliance officer of each.

The National Board recently changed the rules governing all state chapters, giving all groups in a state chapter the same number of representatives to its executive committee, removing the ability of large city groups to dominate their state chapter.  At least two other states beside NY were affected.  Lane, Young, Buxbaum and Baer attempted to goad the other states to resist the National rule.  National finally took action, suspending the membership of Jim Lane and Don Young for five years each, and removing Diane Buxbaum from leadership positions for three years.  Somehow Ken Baer avoided their fate.

This was the latest official dispute in a decades long conflict between the National Board and the NYC Group old guard. Lane's removal may end the control that he and his allies have had over the group.  

The conflict between the National Board, whose membership has changed over time, and the SC NYC old guard, has gone on for decades. Similarly, in 2000, the New York Times reported that conflict between the NY City group and the NY State group had been going on for at least 20 years.

I can only guess at all the disagreements, which would certainly fill a book, although not one that anyone would care to read, full of the official disputes with the legal consequences that might or might not have come about. 

I believe the real reasons behind the conflict are quite simple.  Many years ago, a small clique of NYC Sierra Club members, led by attorney Jim Lane and his front man Ken Baer, decided that they wanted to be Sierra Club officers for life.  They took control of the very powerful and useful Sierra Club brand in NYC and used it as their personal property to the profound detriment of the Sierra Club and the environmental movement in NYC.  It was easy to accomplish.

  • Self-employed lawyer Jim Lane has sued Sierra Club National before.  They were afraid of him and the costs and hassle of getting sued.  National tried to avoid dealing with the Group as much as possible.
  • Lane was surrounded by a tight group of longtime cronies, who would all support each other closely in meetings and votes.  Besides his front man Ken Baer, past chair of the Atlantic Chapter and the NYC Group, and Diane Buxbaum, there was also Edgar and Olive Freud, Annie Wilson, Margaret Young, and Frank Eadie.  Olive Freud, Wilson and Young each had their memberships revoked by National some years ago.  (The sheer number of leaders who have been removed from the NYC Group is remarkable, of course.)
  • The old guard members would always get re-elected to the Group Executive Committee.  Why? Although there are between 10 - 15,000 Sierra Club members in NYC, only a few hundred paid any attention to the nearly invisible and barely active NYC Group.  The old guard had the personal contact information for about 200 longtime members, and was almost always able to get this group to vote for the old guard slate as a bloc. 
  • If new activists came to meetings they would tend to leave quickly, dismayed by the NYC ExCom's dysfunctional and ineffective process.
  • The old guard members enjoyed the benefit of naming themselves and their friends heads of do-nothing or non-existant committees, or were in other ways free of the obligation to be productive. There are others whose names and activist projects have been co-opted and added to the NYC Group committee list, but don't really have anything to do with the group. There's one lady who likes organizing events, so they let her do that.  There hasn't been a newsletter for years.  The Group's issues and actions page is empty.

I tried to change this when I was chair of the NYC Group during 2008 - 2010.  As I documented elsewhere on this blog, I recruited young talented environmentalists to the group and convinced some to run for the ExCom.  The old guard, led by Lane and Baer, used fraud and libel and clever manipulation of election rules to beat my slate of ExCom candidates in 2010.  
 
Report to SC National Board on Fraud and Libel in NYC 2010 ExCom Elections.  


I sent National an extremely thorough report (see above) with irrefutable evidence of fraud and libel, both serious violations of SC rules, which would have enabled the National Board to remove Lane and Baer from leadership positions.  Instead they dismissed my complaint and handed out pardons to everyone involved. Because of this cowardly and misguided leniency, the old guard remained in control since then.

Recently, more sensible leadership took over the Board, and when the current episode took place, the Board took serious actionWhile I am sure that Lane will appeal his expulsion in court, or try to, I am sure that National has lawyered up and is fully prepared.

 
Some Sierra Club leaders have asked me to take down this blog. 

One interesting theory proposed to me is that this blog is a violation of the Club rule that members shouldn't speak negatively of each other in publicTherefore, remaining old guard members will point to me getting away with something as an excuse for their own continued misbehavior.  I don't agree at all.

I believe that both the old guard and the National Board have much cause to repent.  I have no interest in stuffing this unpleasant history into the memory hole to avoid embarrassing and inconveniencing Club leaders.  The purpose of making this public is to help Club leaders to remember what has happened here, and work hard to fix it.

Just as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning brought the disturbing actions of the US government into public awareness, I have done the same with the old guard's inept, petty oligarchy and Sierra Club National's misguided tolerance of it.  

It's now up to Chapter leaders to finally continue the work that National has belatedly started, by working to attract new volunteers and rebuild a functional NYC Group.

For the last 20 years, the old guard have succeeded in keeping the Sierra Club brand in NYC as their personal property, destroying the Club's appeal to other New Yorkers.  National was aware of this and let it happen.

If New Yorkers want to take part in environmental activism they have many options.  They don't have to get involved in Sierra Club, and they haven't.

For proof that New Yorkers other than the old guard have chosen to avoid the SC NYC Group, there is no better evidence than the SC NYC Group's own website with its long list of inactive committees, and absence of any documented actions. 


There were many National Board members whose complacency over the years enabled the NYC Group to have its way.  


Kudos and congratulations to the National Board members who finally had some guts and took a stand!

There's a lot of damage to be repaired. National Sierra Club and Chapter leaders have to recruit competent activists who know Sierra Club ways, and are willing to operate within the NYC Group.  If those new activists can resist the manipulations and bad habits of the remaining old guard members and collaborators, it's possible they can gradually develop a rejuvenated, healthy NYC Group. 

I wish National and Chapter leaders the best of luck in this effort.  If not, the expelled old guard members will continue lurking in the background and guiding their remaining cronies, so little will change.

Lane and Buxbaum won't be there to back up Baer for several years, so the voting bloc is gone. Hopefully the current group chair Allison Tupper will take advantage of this to declare her independence of Ken Baer and recruit some new people.  Best of luck to her.


The years of dirty tricks finally caught up to Shelly Silver and Dean Skelos, and now, to Jim Lane.  Please join me in visualizing Jim in an orange prison jumpsuit, and the Sierra Club free of his malignant influence.
 




Thursday, February 18, 2016

More of the same in 2016

The NYC ExCom installed newcomer Allison Tupper as their new chair.  It's still being run by Ken Baer and Jim Lane, and their handful of followers. 

Cronyism continues. At the February 2016 ExCom meeting, I witnessed Lisa DiCaprio and Frank Eadie both ask to be named as energy committee chair.  DiCaprio, an NYU professor, recapped her extensive advocacy and testimony on many energy policy issues.  Old guard crony Eadie was inarticulate, had clearly done virtually nothing, had the audacity to read a list of names he had trouble pronouncing and claimed them to be his committee.  Past Chapter Chair Carl Arnold, struggling to be diplomatic, said that Eadie's claim that environmental impact statements of wind projects had to meet the approval of the Group and Chapter was not correct.  Tupper bowed to the implied demand of the old guard and named each of them chair of a committee - DiCaprio of energy legislation, and Eadie, of energy, miscellaneous, whatever.

Factionalism continues.  In 2015 I proposed to setting up climate change response forums in NYC neighborhoods to be co-sponsored by the SC NYC Group, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance and elected officials. (Note that I have actually set up events like this, such as the June 2015 resilience festival in the Rockaways). After I refused to take down this blog, the ExCom refused the offer.

Since I am now working for Sustainable South Bronx, the Bronx subcontractor for NYSERDA (the NYS energy agency), I offered SC NYC the opportunity to co-sponsor any forums I would be able to set up.  In the ExCom meeting, they said they would have to review which local elected official who would cosponsor, in case they did not meet the approval of the NYC Group.  After I sent them a letter spelling that out, Allison came up with a new objection.  Economic development groups and waterfront groups who SSBX had partnered with - who I had never mentioned and had not planned to invite - might take positions not meeting with SC NYC Group approval - so they would have to pass.   Surely the group has set a new level for creative gymnastics to avoid working with me. 



The National Board is reviewing the latest controversy involving Baer, Lane and their posse - inciting the Tennessee and Pennsylvania Chapters to rebel against National rule changes on the number of delegates Groups can send to Chapters. I would like to remind the Board and other Sierra Club members that the current controversy is not an isolated incident but a pattern of flagrant disregard of Sierra Club rules by a rogue faction that the National Board has chose to ignore for many years.

The Board may wish to review my 2010 report documenting beyond a shadow of a doubt that Baer and Lane stole the NYC ExCom elections of 2009 and 2010 through fraud and libel

Instead of removing Baer and Lane from Club leadership positions immediately, as was its right, t
he Board disregarded the complaint and issued wrist slaps to everyone.  Nothing changed, and here we are again years later.  When will the Board finally remove the cancerous tumor of the NYC old guard?

 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Volunteers for Life are firmly in charge - but Sierra Club in NYC is defunct

Sierra Club is the nation's largest grassroots environmental organization.  In other large cities, such as Los Angeles and Chicago, it has a thriving and dynamic presence

However, its presence in NYC has been at best marginal. This is due to a tiny clique of longtime volunteers who have dominated both the NYC Group and the NY State Chapter of the Club ever since 1990.  

Sierra Club's NYC Group has been defunct for years

While there have been over 15,000 Sierra Club members in NYC, hardly any of them pay any attention to the virtually defunct SC NYC Group.  Visit their website.  While there are many committees listed, there's no discussion of their activities elsewhere on the website or in their occasional newsletter.  That's because the committees are inactive.  If their occasional public talks brought in any new volunteers or generated any group activities, wouldn't it be reflected on the website? The webmaster frequently posts verbose essays that are unrelated to actual activities of the NYC Group.   It maintains a pretense.

SC NYC Groups has been a Potemkin Village for many years - a fraudulent entity with one true purpose - to maintain its old guard - led by Jim Lane and his front man Ken Baer - in lifetime positions as Sierra Club volunteer officers. Since the 1990s, they and their cronies have also dominated their NY State Chapter of the Sierra Club.  

Between 2006 and 2010, I tried to bring in new volunteers and revitalize the NYC group.  Here's why that didn't work.  

Ways the old guard has maintained control

- SC National has steered clear of the NYC Group for many years.  Jim Lane, a self-employed attorney, sued National in the past.  To avoid expensive lawsuits, National has ignored the NYC group as much as possible.

- Very few of the 15,000 or so members pay any attention to the doings of the NYC Group.  Most of the a few hundred members who actually vote have known of the old guard for decades.


- The operations of the NYC Group have historically been very inefficient and dysfunctional, driving away potential volunteers.  For many years, Olive Freud disrupted monthly ExCom meetings with angry rants and crazy behavior, tolerated by the old guard.  This drove away most newcomers after one meeting.  I and other ExCom members successfully petitioned SC National to take away her SC membership. In recent years, two other SC NYC ExCom members, Annie Wilson and Margaret Young, have had their memberships taken away by National.  

Environmental activists seeking effective places to put their energy quickly realize that SC NYC is not a useful place for them.  One can speculate about the motivations of the few who stay.  Some are fully aware of what the old guard is about but are able to convince themselves that their presence - enabling the old guard in continuing to preserve appearances - is somehow good for the Sierra Club.   

Some find value in their association with the Club.  Back in 2012, Thelma Fellows, briefly chair of the NYC Group before she proved to be insufficiently compliant, proposed as the new energy committee chair one Lisa DiCaprio, an environmental studies professor at NYU and a highly dedicated activist.  She was harshly rejected by the old guard, who installed their crony Annie Wilson.   DiCaprio left for some time, identifies primarily with 350.org, although continues to associate with the SC in some form. It's rare for volunteers to stick around if they've been slapped down instead of welcomed.  She is a rarity.  


The old guard used libel and fraud in the 2009 and 2010 Executive Committee elections

This was unequivocally documented in a formal complaint to the Sierra Club's National Board.  Jim Lane is a master of using Sierra Club procedure and parliamentary law to create labyrinths and confusion.  

In the December 2009 ExCom election, Sierra Club members in NYC voted many new members onto the ExCom - voting out several long-serving members, including Jim Lane.  Because of delays at the printer there were less than 30 days between the mailing of the ballots and the day of their counting, as required by Sierra Club National bylaws.  Neither Lane, Baer or any other member of the ExCom suggested delaying the day of the ballot counting for a week, which would have put the election squarely within compliance of National regulations.  

I believe but cannot prove that they knew of the technical violation but kept silent so that if they lost they could raise the issue and force National to rerun the election - which they did.  In the August 2010 ExCom election, Ken Baer and Jim Lane, with the support of their faction, falsely claimed that I was wrongfully responsible for holding the December ballot at the printer because I was stalling until the candidates I recruited submitted their candidate statements. The accusation that my wrongful conduct was to blame for the delay was repeated in three locations.  

Formal complaint to Sierra Club National Board documenting election fraud and libel 

In October 2010 I submitted a 27 page formal complaint that documented clearly how the statements from Lane and Baer constituted libel and fraud, and their use in Sierra Club elections constituted serious misconduct under the Sierra Club Standing Rules.  I requested that National immediately remove Lane and Baer's leadership privileges, in accordance with SC Standing Rules 5.10.2.

To its great shame, National dismissed the complaint.  "...The Standing Rule specifically gives us discretion not to act on requests that we believe should be dealt with more appropriately by other means....We believe that working with chapter leadership will be a more effective alternative than acting serially on multiple leadership removal requests...."

In November 2010, SC Board President Robin Mann issued a stern sounding slap-on-the-wrist memo to all NY State Chapter leaders, promising close oversight and demanding civil behavior.  With dissent crushed, the doings of the NYC Group and State Chapter are presumably quite civil. 

The NYC Group is still under the complete control of Lane and Baer, and still does virtually nothing.  What are the long term consequences for the Sierra Club brand in NYC and State?  I think it's likely that volunteers, activists, and donors that might have been attracted to Sierra Club have long since found other places to bring their energy and their money.    

Recent dealings with SC NYC reveal that minutes of meetings are often not recorded, and not shared with the ExCom members and the few who bother to attend meetings.  Some complain weakly but are unwilling to ruffle feathers.  Not surprisingly, the person responsible for keeping minutes - who usually doesn't - is none other than Jim Lane, who is ironically the procedural compliance officer for the NY State Chapter of the Club.  

I share this material so that the unfortunate and shameful history of the Sierra Club in NYC doesn't complete vanish down the memory hole.  I encourage environmentalists to reform the Sierra Club, if that is possible, but perhaps the wiser course is to learn from my mistake and avoid it altogether.  

Documenting Fraud in 12/09 ExCom Election

Originally published in 2010

In the December 2009 ExCom election, Sierra Club members in NYC voted many new members onto the ExCom, voting out several long-serving members, including attorney Jim Lane - the Secretary of Sierra Club's New York City Group - and of the Club's New York State Chapter. Because of delays at the printer, there were less than 30 days between the mailing of the ballots and the day of their counting, as required by Sierra Club National bylaws. Neither Lane, Baer, or any other member of the ExCom suggested delaying the day of the ballot counting for a week, which would have put the election squarely within compliance of National regulations.

I believe but cannot prove that Lane knew of the technical violation with the election, but kept silent so if he or his faction lost, he could raise it to force National to rerun the election.In the August 2010 ExCom election, Ken Baer and Jim Lane, with the support of their faction, falsely claimed that I was wrongfully responsible for holding the December ballot newsletter at the printer because I was stalling until the candidates I recruited submitted their candidate statements. The accusation that my wrongful conduct was to blame for the delay was repeated in three locations.

To prove that this charge is false, I submit below a copy of an email I sent to the Nominations Committee chair Antuan Cannon on December 1, 2009, with the attachment that contained all the candidate statements. I sent a copy of this email to Greg Casini of Sierra Club National, and his response that he received it. Anyone who wants a copy of this email can have it as well.

Antuan Cannon, as the chair of the nominations committee, was responsible for confirming all ExCom candidates. On Tuesday, December 1, I sent him an email with a draft committee report I wrote for him to edit and send out under his signature, along with an attachment that contained all the candidate statements, which I had compiled, except for that of Margaret Young, whose candidacy the committee had voted to deny. The key point is that this email proves I had all the candidate statements and was distributing them internally as early as December 1 - contrary to the Lane-Baer campaign allegations. (Incidentally, after the August election, Antuan Cannon was named Vice Chair of the NYC Group.)




See the image below of my email to Greg Casini of Sierra Club National on August 24, in which I forwarded the Dec. 1 email and the attached candidate statements - and Greg's confirmation that he received the email.




This fraudulent, libelous charge against me was not incidental - but was the very core of the Lane-Baer faction's campaign.

- The candidate statement submitted in the name of Ashley Cole, which consisted entirely of personal attacks on me. Cole is the spouse of Margaret Hayes Young, a member of the ExCom whose Sierra Club membership was terminated because of a separate dispute with Sierra Club National. Jim Lane argued for Cole's right to use the venue of the ballot statement for his defamatory assault on me as expression of free speech, even though Cole admitted in the statement that he was uninterested in serving on the ExCom. (After the summer 2010 election, in n a stunning display of hypocrisy, the ExCom passed a resolution preventing non-candidates from submitting candidate statements.)

- Ken Baer's postcard mailing.

- The website for Lane, Baer and their slate of candidates, http://www.nycactivists.org/. See for yourself. If the site is removed, screen capture images follow below. Click on them for a larger version.









Election Fraud Carries the Day

The Lane-Baer slate knowingly and falsely accused me of wrongful conduct. They knowingly and falsely claimed that Sierra Club National's decision to rerun the December 2009 ExCom election stemmed from this wrongful conduct on my part.
Only 350 or so of the 10,000+ Sierra Club members in NYC bothered to vote in either election. In December, the reform candidates I promoted won a controlling majority of the ExCom. The campaign was based on positive, pragmatic organizing efforts that were already taking place.

In August 2010, the reform candidates I promoted all lost. The decisive factor was the intensely negative campaign run by the Lane-Baer slate - based on the slanders presented here.


Blowing the Whistle: Sierra Club National Should Investigate the Club's NYC Group - 2010

Originally published in 2010

Some SC Groups in big cities, like those in LA and Chicago, have hundreds of activists, with literally thousands of people each year attending group events. (See quotes from those Groups in earlier posts on this page.)

At the other end of the spectrum, like failed states, are failed Groups.
The Executive Committee of the virtually defunct NYC Group has long been controlled by a tiny faction, out of touch and inept. Ask what they have actually accomplished over the decades they have been in control of the group.

I and other volunteers blew the whistle and twice tried to unseat them. Why? Because something better was possible, in service both to the Sierra Club and NYC.

The Sierra Club is one of the largest and best known of US environmental groups, and unique in its structure as a grassroots network, with a robust capacity to support volunteers. Ideally, volunteer members can draw on Club resources support their local projects, while raising the Sierra Club's profile as an active participant at local levels. The Sierra Club's greatest asset is not its national staff, or its many members, but its name and reputation.

Most people are passive members of Sierra Club, sending donations, but otherwise apathetic to volunteer activities. Many of the relatively few Sierra Club members who volunteer do so benignly.

The clout of the Sierra Club name can be used to support worthy local initiatives and build the environmental movement, or it can be co-opted by self-serving individuals, providing them with impressive titles, and undeserved authority, as has taken place in the NYC Group.

Those with a hankering for power can attain it, despite their limited abilities, by attaching themselves as parasites to the Club. Careful use of Club internal procedures allow parasitic volunteers, coupled with the apathy of most of its members, to operate tiny fiefdoms indefinitely, without building the overall Club, and blocking growth or innovation.

Over the last two years, I set out a vision for local sustainability organizing in NYC. Use of the Sierra Club name would assist in its spread. In turn, the organizing efforts would bring positive regard to the Sierra Club brand, commonly seen as old-fashioned and behind the times. This was not to be.

The reform slate I organized won the winter 2009 election, but the faction forced its overturn on a technicality. The faction won the summer 2010 rerun election through a ruthless campaign of fraud and libel, swaying most of the 350 or so of the 10,000+ members in NYC who actually voted. I do not use those terms lightly, and back them up in great detail in the following posts. Fraud and libel are considered serious misconduct under the Sierra Club Standing Rules.I applaud Michael Brune, the new Executive Director of the National Sierra Club, and wish him the best of luck as he attempts to make the organization relevant to the concerns of the 21st century. The Club's focus on climate change as its top priority shows that he is moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, the National Club is deprived of a vital and growing presence in NYC because of the faction that has regained control of the ExCom. He should do something about this. If you care about the future of Sierra Club, so should you.

What can you do?1. Boycott the ineffective SC NYC ExCom, whose members orchestrated or condoned election fraud. I am disappointed that some of the candidates I once backed have chosen to condone and support the leaders of the faction that regained control by such disreputable means.

2. In this ExCom election, vote for me as a watchdog on their activities.

3. Protest the outrage to Michael Brune at michael.brune@sierraclub.org.

As for me, I am moving forward with my sustainability organizing projects. In winter 2011 I will be promoting white roof painting projects, and continuing my collaboration with many NYC green initiatives. For details, contact me at beyondoilnyc@yahoo.com.

Dan

SC National Board disregards documentation of flawed election in 2010 - my act of civil disobedience

After the August 2010 election, described in earlier posts, I prepared a detailed complaint and sent it to Greg Cassini, Sierra Club's Associate Director of Volunteer Development. In the following months, I learned that there were two speeds for National Sierra Club resolution of member complaints over rules disputes: rapid and ultra-slow. 

In January 2010, when Jim Lane told Cassini that the December ExCom election was invalid because the days between ballot mailing and ballot counting were a few days less than mandated by bylaws, Mr. Cassini responded rapidly. Cassini proposed several responses, which Lane rejected. Lane held out for an re-run election in August election, with a second ExCom election in December 2010 for the remainder of the ExCom seats. Cassini accepted Lane's terms.

When I informed Cassini that Lane and Baer's August 2010 ExCom campaign was fraudulent and libelous, in violation of Club standing rules, he told me to prepare a complaint with all the evidence. I did. I documented the charges, and requested Sierra Club National immediately remove leadership privileges from Lane and Baer, in accordance with Sierra Club Standing Rules 5.10.2, for fraud and libel in the conduct of Club business, defined as serious misconduct in SR 2.2.6. Click here to download the PDF of the complaint.

I submitted it in early October and heard nothing further.

My expectation that National would act on my complaint was reduced when I saw the letter that Robin Mann, President of the Sierra Club National Board of Directors, sent to the New York State Chapter. Clearly, the NYC dispute had come to the attention of the Club's highest levels. However, I interpreted it as a message that National would forgive and ignore previous scandals as long as there were no more embarrassments or disasters coming from the New York State Chapter.(full text of her letter below)

Why the fast response to Lane and Baer's complaint? Lane, as a self-employed lawyer, sued Sierra Club National in the early 2000s to prevent the dissolution of the NYC Group. It seems likely that National Board and staff will go to great lengths to avoid confronting Lane again, even if that means ignoring clear violations of Club rules.

Still, it looked like National was quite willing to toss my complaint in the recycling bin. I felt I had to compel National to address it. I ran for the NYC ExCom again in the December election. In my ballot statement, I asked for National to investigate the NYC Group. I also committed acts of civil disobedience. I still had the list of SC NYC members from November 2009, when I was sending out emails about Group activities to NYC members (a practice that stopped with me). On December 20, 2011, I sent out two emails to a list of 5560 members. One was an introduction to my new personal project, http://www.beyondoilnyc.org/.

This was both to partly rehabilitate my reputation, and to use a Sierra Club list for other than Sierra Club business. The second email was a denunciation of what had happened. (See below) As it was sent by me, as a candidate in an ExCom election, I am certain it must have violated National rules. The emails were opened by 880 on that list. (Evidence on request) I then copied these emails to the New York City Group ExCom, the New York State Chapter Excom, and finally, to the National Board of Directors.

As of early January, 2011, I am mystified at the lack of response to these actions. But I still want to know what National will do with my complaints about the election of August 2010.

----- Original Message --
From: "Robin Mann, Sierra Club"
Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 2010 8:00 PM
Subject: Letter to Atlantic Chapter leaders from Sierra Club President Robin Mann
November 3, 2010

TO: Atlantic Chapter & Group Leaders
FROM: Robin Mann, Sierra Club President, on behalf of the Board of Directors
RE: Please Address These Matters Promptly

Dear Chapter and Group Leaders,

We know that there has been a lot of great conservation and electoral work going on in New York. We thank you and congratulate you for that. There are, however, also some red flags emerging including recent chapter committee resignations, group election conflicts, and reports of some interactions between leaders and public officials reflecting poorly on the Sierra Club - in our experience, all potential warning signs of escalating factionalism. We are sharing our concerns with you at this time in order to encourage you collectively take steps to proactively and constructively resolve your disputes and avoid further deterioration that may necessitate national Club intervention.

The Board of Directors expects all of the chapters to participate in building and maintaining a vibrant grassroots organization that advances the Club's mission. As Chapter & Group leaders, you all have an obligation to protect the Club's name and reputation, ensure a safe and productive working environment for members and staff, and foster a Club in which people want to participate.

The two recent resignations from the Chapter Political Committee and a NYC Group election that had to be rerun and still resulted in negative, disputed campaign mailings to local members call into question the ability of Chapter & Group leaders to work together effectively and provide the kind of leadership the Club expects of its chapters. Due to these concerns, we have asked the Volunteer Leadership Advisory Committee and staff in the Office of Volunteer and Activist Services to offer support to the Atlantic Chapter to help address these concerns. Greg Casini will be the lead staff for this effort, which will continue until it is evident the following has occurred:

WHAT WE EXPECT TO SEE:

+ A welcoming and respectful environment for all volunteers and staff
- No basis for requests to suspend or remove leaders

+ Sincere efforts to involve new volunteers in meaningful ways
- No reports of factionalism or cliquishness

+ Positive public relationships with elected officials and other community leaders
- No reports of behavior that harms the Club's reputation and effectiveness with public officials

+ Chairs fostering productive and satisfying teamwork for their committee members
- No angry resignations

+ ExCom elections viewed by all as fair
- Complaint-free elections

Collectively, all chapter and group leaders are responsible for the vibrancy of the organization. All of you are responsible for the leaders you appoint, the ExCom officers you select, and the authorization of individuals to speak publically on behalf of the Club. As we do with all chapters, we expect you to work together to build a strong, healthy chapter and vibrant groups. When this is accomplished, we have great confidence in your ability to achieve even more important conservation victories.


***


To: Sierra Club Board of Directors
Re: Controversy connected with SC NYC Group ExCom Elections
I regret having to communicate with this list on a sensitive and unpleasant topic. There have been some difficulties at the Atlantic Chapter and the NYC Group ExCom. While National leaders are making diligent and careful efforts to improve volunteer operations, I am concerned that they may be willing to overlook serious violations of Club procedures in the past in the hope of smooth functioning in the future. Failing to address past violations will leave unchanged the conditions that are bound to result in future issues. In the hope of optimizing the Club’s presence in New York State, I would encourage Club leaders not to sweep things under the rug.

In order to assure these matters are not ignored, I have myself committed violations of procedure, as an act of civil disobedience.
I hope these matters can be thoroughly resolved, with the ultimate best interests of the Club in mind.

Sincerely, Dan Miner

***

Sent: Monday, December 20, 2010 10:50 AM
To: ATL-LEADERS LISTS.SIERRACLUB.ORG
Subject: Notification to Sierra Club National of unauthorized communications through the NYC Group Members List

From: New York City Group ExCom members
On Behalf Of Dan Miner
Sent: Monday, December 20, 2010 10:46 AM
To: ATL-NYC-EXCOM@LISTS.SIERRACLUB.ORG
Subject: Notification to Sierra Club National of unauthorized communications through the NYC Group Members List December 20, 2010

Notification to Sierra Club National of unauthorized communications through the NYC Group Members List
Greg, I am relieved to hear that the National Board is paying close attention to the difficulties that have taken place in the Atlantic Chapter and the NYC Group, and that you have been assigned to oversee efforts to improve matters. However, review of Robin Mann’s November 3, 2010 letter to the Atlantic Chapter leaders leaves me deeply troubled.

The letter implies that as long as the Atlantic Chapter and the NYC Group avoid major missteps that would embarrass the National Sierra Club, past misdeeds will be ignored. As you know, there were technical violations in the NYC ExCom election of December 2009. They were doubtlessly obvious to Jim Lane and Ken Baer, masters of Sierra Club internal procedures, but neither spoke up, allowing the election to be completed with technical flaws, cleverly preserving grounds for appeal. Soon after Jim brought them to your attention, the election was nullified. He rejected compromises that you proposed, and that many members of the ExCom were willing to accept. Lane and Baer won complete control of the ExCom in the summer 2010 re-run election by orchestrating a campaign of fraud and libel against me. These actions are considered to be serious misconduct within the Club’s standing rules, and are profoundly significant when carried out in the course of Club elections. (The details are enumerated in the copied communications below, and on http://www.sierraclubnyc.blogspot.com/)

I fear that I have been played for a sucker when I was told to enter an official complaint to National, as it has languished for many months with no evidence that National will address these very serious violations. On the other hand, it seems apparent that National is unwilling to engage Jim Lane, the self-employed lawyer who has sued Sierra Club before, no matter what he does, out of fear that he can tie the Club up in expensive litigation. Neither the Atlantic Chapter ExCom nor the NYC Group ExCom has acknowledged the gravity of what has happened, and both bodies seem content to move on to business as usual.

It looks increasingly likely that my complaint, after suitable delay, will be dismissed in the interests of calm and stability. I find such selective enforcement of Club standing rules to be unfair, morally repugnant, and contrary to the best interests of the Club. Regretfully, I am forced to protest through civil disobedience.
As NYC Group Chair and newsletter editor, I had access to the members list and sent out email notifications of Club events. It contains the emails of about five thousand members. This morning, I have sent out two communications to that list, in violation of Club policy for using member lists. They are copied below.
One is about my own personal environmental organizing activities, not on Club business, that may somewhat repair the slanderous assault on my reputation carried out this summer. The other casts a spotlight on the heinous actions of Club leaders in the recent NYC ExCom elections. Since I am a candidate in the current election, it is especially inappropriate, and I am sure it violates many rules.

I don’t think either communication will have much material influence on the ExCom election, as the very few people who bother to vote will be heavily biased against me from the summer’s smear campaign, but I am sure others will argue otherwise. I recognize that my possession of the member list gives me an unfair advantage over other ExCom members. I have remedied this by sharing my list with them, so they can communicate directly with members as well, if they wish.

As you and other National staff and volunteers decide how to enforce these violations, I ask again how you plan to act on the violations detailed in my complaint, which I consider even more serious than mine. The saga of Julian Assange of Wikileaks suggests that organizations have an interest in proactive transparency. I suggest that National Sierra Club will be strengthened by this opportunity to deal with past difficulties rather than ignoring them.

Sincerely,

Dan Miner

***
Subject line Was your environmental group naughty or nice in 2011? [Email stationary template removed]

Dear XXX,

Thanks for your support of Sierra Club this year. Member donations support the Club's full time staff, ably headed by new Executive Director Michael Brune. Some of your donation is sent from the National Club down to regional or state Chapters, which are further divided into subregional Groups. Chapters and Groups are operated mostly by whichever members step forward and volunteer. The Atlantic (New York State) Chapter contains 11 regional groups, one of which is the NYC Group.

Some Groups are Nice!
Some chapters and groups, especially in large urban areas, are amazingly dynamic. The Los Angeles Chapter is the oldest and largest chapter in the country, made up of 62 regional groups, activity sections and committees, with 46,000 members. Perhaps more comparable to NYC is the Chicago Group. Its 8,500 members actively campaign for the local, state and national candidates they endorse. The Group has beach clean-ups monthly from April through September, with up to 400 attending, and an active outing program. Their Social Committee hosts monthly dinners, bar nights, neighborhood walks, movie nights and book discussion groups.They have e-newsletters & a well-maintained website, advertise their events on Facebook & Meet-up, and in local newspapers. Read statements from the LA and Chicago Groups.

Some Groups are...ah...Not As Nice...?
You're probably glad for the Sierra Club members in LA and Chicago. And you're glad to be supporting the Sierra Club's National staff and programs with your donation. But you might wonder, what's up with NYC? Where's the NYC Group, anyway?As a member, you get a quarterly newsletter, and sometimes some emails. Unfortunately, Sierra Club's NYC Group just doesn't do that much. Out of about 10,000 New Yorkers who pay dues to Sierra Club, about 20 actively volunteer with the Group. (The separate Photography Committee is much larger and more active.) That's too bad, because a more active Group could play positive role in the City, and support National programs in one of the world's media and financial centers.

Why is this the case? Well, hardly any of the members vote for the Executive Committee - about 100 in 2008, and around 350 in the last two elections. The few who vote keep re-electing the handful of volunteers who have run things for many years. How do I know? I spent a couple of years on the Executive Committee, trying to move things forward. I had a plan to get more people involved, and get positive things done. Things haven't worked out as I hoped within the NYC Group, so I'm carrying out the plan independently.

Some Groups are Naughty!
Things didn't work out because the volunteers who were running things liked being in charge, even if not much got doneI recruited a slate of candidates who won a majority of the ExCom in the winter 2009 election. But some of the folks on the governing faction are very, very skilled at using Sierra Club internal regulations. One is a self-employed lawyer who has sued Sierra Club National before. National is very, very cautious in its dealings with the NYC Group. The election was overturned. In the rerun election this summer, the governing faction ran a negative campaign of fraud and libel against me personally. All the candidates I was backing lost.

That's standard campaign tactics for government elections. However, fraud and libel are still considered serious violations of the internal rules for Sierra Club volunteers. The governing faction was able to pressure National to quickly overturn the election they lost because of technical violations. Months after I went to National with a formal complaint, I'm told that National is processing it, and watching the NYC Group very carefully. There's no telling when or if it will act. Should this naughty group get only rocks in its stockings? I bet Santa thinks so, but I think someone's holding a gun on him. What do you think?

Sending this email to you, using an official list, with my personal and controversial opinions, during the conduct of an ExCom election in which I am a candidate, completely violates a slew of internal rules. Well, my role within Sierra Club is not so important. Some people will be offended, but that's not so important either. I hope this will stimulate discussion, lead to better practices, and get more members involved.What is important is building the global sustainability movement as quickly and effectively as possible. Sierra Club's ability to operate effectively in NYC as a part of that movement is very important. Please help Sierra Club, and increase your committment to the sustainability movement, however you see fit.

Thanks, and happy holidays.

Dan Miner
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?llr=t7oeipdab&et=1104097373807&s=4535&e=0016Ice08MNo1qvtXU_L7az0yVyAvxEeYW3ZwECOIFPzrE2XdvmX6861X7aueuH9phlUtER4ZKaMTMlS_EU6Oj_5uJvh-V2-E8EeBhk5choOz-MLlSLxXzBXg==


[The second email has been deleted for brevity.]

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