Clarification and Moving Forward Together
As a board we have to take the high road, both out of a respect for ethics and our responsibility to protect AAS from legal or financial risk, given the misleading contents of a recent letter circulated by a group of former board presidents we feel we have a duty to respond.
We are deeply saddened by the diversion of important suicide prevention resources to spread misinformation, incite attacks, and otherwise disrupt the literally life-saving mission of educating about and preventing suicide, particularly as we’ve become aware that a principal source of this misinformation is an individual who lacks any formal relationship with AAS and is therefore sharing inaccuracies based on speculation alone.
There are still things we can’t say, even at the cost of our personal reputations being attacked, because we are committed to this organization and its mission. However, some of what you’re being told simply isn’t true.
Much of this discussion revolves around the resignation of our former Executive Director/CEO and whether it was done appropriately or for good reason. As you are likely aware, employment law prevents us from sharing specifics of employment decisions in public. However, we have already shared that all bylaws were followed during this process, and we can now tell you that we have amicably resolved and entered into a signed separation agreement with the former Director.
While the Board’s Executive Committee, and specifically the Board Chair, have been subjected to strict scrutiny for not involving the full Board in that decisional process, you should first appreciate that we received a written document from the former Executive Director making clear they would accept a separation notice only reflecting a vote of the Executive Committee, NOT the full Board.
This leads us to what seems to be confusion about the Board as a whole, and specifically the role the Board Chair plays. Yes, there have been Board resignations, some due to disagreement and some due to the attacks and allegations leveled against Board members in social media and elsewhere following the removal of the former Executive Director. Having a partial board is obviously not ideal, but much of the delay in refilling those spots is connected to our bylaws and seeking expert opinion. Our bylaws only allow for what are expensive and cumbersome special elections under very specific circumstances and the bylaws specify clearly how board members who’ve resigned should be replaced. In other words, we’re working to bring new people in but we have to do it the right way. We are actively pursuing the advice of legal counsel and other experts in the field to help us ensure our Board remains a valuable asset to AAS, and will share more on that process soon.
For those who aren’t aware of how our Board Chair position functions, you may be surprised to know that their vote automatically counts as a yes on all AAS matters over which they preside and they are directed to preside over all board and Executive Council meetings. They do cast a vote in the event of a tie, though current Chair Tony Wood has actually never been called to cast that tiebreaker vote. Their powers are further limited to overseeing the functions of the AAS board and its agents based on the bylaws, resolutions and policies adopted by the board. And although the Board Chair is the sole agent for signatures on agreements over and above our board established procurement limits, they can not decide to sign on their own, but instead must be directed by central office and allowed by a board policy or a resolution passed by the board directing them to sign.
We are here to support the mission of suicide prevention and education, and that’s not changing. Yes, there have been challenges, but it’s hardly the first time in our 53-year history, and we continue to look towards the future with confidence. We are fully operational, we are staffed with talented people, and we expect no interruption to ongoing projects or the trainings, accreditations, membership engagement efforts, communications work, and other services our community has come to expect. The search for a qualified interim Executive Director is ongoing, and we look forward to sharing more about that with all of you soon, too.
There are many passionate people in this field, and we see that coming out in discussions, especially on social media. Criticism is fair and we welcome it as an opportunity to improve, but keeping these conversations both civil and productive is the least we can all do if we truly want to move things forward.
As always, if you want to get in touch we’re here to talk. You can reach our leadership team directly any time by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The AAS Board of Directors