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A Cheater's Best Friend? Secrecy, Or?
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INTRODUCTION: SECRECY AND/OR CONCENTRATION OF AUTHORITY – A CHEATER’S BEST FRIEND?

 

IMPORTANT:  THE TITLE IS ONLY HYPOTHETICAL AND MEANT TO PROVOKE THOUGHT!  I don't believe for a second that anyone mentioned herein condones or welcomes any cheating!  This presentation is not a statement about the intentions, personal qualities or depth of integrity and/or commitment of any persons or persons. Rather, it is important to be forthright about cheating related matters. There is no disparagement or disrespect of anyone or anything implied or intended.

 

I apologize for any errors or omissions and invite corrections; some information may either may have, or did, escape my reasonably diligent but not exhaustive, search.

 

By a number of accounts, a person virtually unknown in expert bridge circles, Georgia Heth, is essentially the primary and self-designated decision maker on those convicted of the most severe ethical violations and/or cheating. Highly placed experts report burnout in attempting to solve the ongoing cheating problem by looking to ACBL Administrators to create a workable, valid and transparent system for expelling (and readmitting) miscreants. One bemoans that it’s a “remarkably difficult area to effectively and legally address even with [general] support [being there]”.

 

Heth has been a licensed attorney with the State of Illinois for much of her career, first with the Attorney General’s office, and more recently and briefly, with its Child Protection Services. It is reported that she is now retired, though that is not yet stated in her official ACBL Bio (included at the end of this Article).

 

NOTE:  If there is a responsibility for apparent concentration of power, it does not lie with the hypothetical individual(s) involved, bur rather with everyone.

 

Current ACBL secrecy policies for expulsion and readmission of high profile, convicted wrongdoers are virtually unheard of in final, high profile disciplinary bodies of any type. They are certainly non-collaborative and non-transparent. What if, for example, the US Supreme Court discussed and voted privately on the USA’s most sensitive and important matters, without publishing the detailed written case, as it always has done in actuality?

ACBL’S CODE OF DISCIPLINARY REGULATIONS SPEAKS ON SECRECY

 

CDR 3.4 – “Accusations of unethical bridge conduct publicly made at an ACBL sanctioned event, not made privately to a tournament director or other tournament official”.

 

CDR 5.1.3 “Recordkeeping Required. A record must be kept of a hearing: . . . (b) A stenographic or recorded record of the hearing shall be kept. The Disciplinary Body shall also preserve a copy of all documentary evidence presented to it. . . . (not relevant) . . . Only the parties to the hearing and the reviewing Disciplinary Body may have access to such record”.

 

Surely, such record is kept under the umbrella of the ACBL; headquarters, which has many ACBL Members. Until recently, League Counsel was independent and reported to the BoD as a whole, and reportedly held some sensitive files, but has just been declared a management position and hired to work at headquarters. Are the gatekeepers of this record prohibited from seeing or knowing even where to file the records for which they are custodians because they are not "the parties [or] the reviewing Disciplinary Body"?

 

Of note, there is no definition of “privileged” in the following.

CDR 10.4 "PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATIONS. Any communication that occurs during the meeting of an ACBL Body (as defined below), which relates to matters that have been, are or might reasonably become subjects of business for that particular body, is privileged. (a)For purposes of this CDR 10.4 only, "privileged" shall mean that the communication may not be used as the basis for any Complaint under this CDR or other ACBL Regulations. (b) For purposes of this CDR 10.4 only, "ACBL Body" includes the Board of Directors, any ACBL Foundation Board and any ACBL committee or sub-committee appointed by the ACBL President, the ACBL Board of Directors or any ACBL Board member. It shall also include the Board of Governors, any District or Unit Board within ACBL and any duly appointed or elected District or Unit committee or sub-committee”.

 

Am I the only person who is having difficulty comprehending the BoG reference here, or the actual meaning of the incredibly wide ranging broadness of this privileged communications mandate?  What does "any communication that occurs during the meeting of any ACBL Body . . . which might reasonably become subjects of business for that particular body" mean, that nobody in a meeting may talk about what's happening and because it may be happening?

 

NOTE: The CDRs were recently amended to run to 89 pages, a significant step.

MANAGEMENT STYLE

 

When I attended the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, one professor advised me that the first question a consultant should ask of a proposed client is “What if you’re the problem?” As an example, if a CEO was hiring the consultant, was the consultant granted enough independence to report back that the CEO was the source of problems?

 

The recent controversy over the readmission of Massimo Lanzarotti highlights the change wherein the BoD has consolidated its authority.

 

One available governmental structure includes three divisions, executive, legislative and judiciary. In 2018, in yet another change of leadership, the BoD parted ways with the then CEO, and reduced the position’s designation to “Executive Director”. (Historically, the title “Executive Secretary” was also used).

 

The ACBL’s judiciary has always been administered by the BoD. It is a subset of the BoD, is required to have only BoD members, and makes its decisions and determinations in total secrecy. It is not required to disclose any of its deliberations or to provide any reason(s) for outcomes.

 

In 2016, the 8-member, highly distinguished Bridge Integrity Task Force (BITF) was established; its purpose was seemingly to make recommendations to the BoD. It came up with a strong 5-page report, whose ultimate implementation or lack thereof has been fuzzy. The BITF seems, for all intents and purposes, to have been reduced to one in a long series of mere afterthoughts. Did it ruffle the feathers of the BoD? (I’ve learned that the BITF was apparently established by management, and reported to management, and not to the BoD).

 

In the past few years, there apparently have been a number of sub-committees of the BoD formed, which were comprised of BoD, BoG, and other participants. Do they meet and make proposals and/or reports? I must admit that I’ve not seen or heard of any, and see no such references in the past two years of BoD minutes.

 

The entire issue is one of transparency. The Lanzarotti Readmission Application was well known before publication of the Fall 2018 BoD Meeting Agenda, but was intentionally withheld from public view, without any apparent permission from the ACBL rules and/or regulations.

 

It appears that the completely unprecedented Joint Statement issued by the A & C Committee in the MP matter, and the ACBL Official’s afterthought of a statement re Lanzarotti, were entirely penned and approved by Georgia Heth. The BoG’s 2014 Anti-Cheating Proposal/Motion, and the Bridge Integrity Task Force Recommendations, were not ratified at all or in full, without comment or input, by the A & C Committee. I’ve sent an E-mail to Heth on each of these two matters, and her replies were terse and that she wasn’t interested in input.

 

The ultimate question is: Should significant judicial decisions in bridge be made largely by peers, and what constitutes a peer? From a recent E-mail from Avon Wilsmore:

“The polls have the downside that just about everyone will be unfamiliar with some people in the lists. How many Americans have heard of Eric Laurant? But, Eric and I spent a day together, and he is one mightily-impressive individual on the topic of the eradication of cheats.

“I have never heard of Margot Hennings, Russ Jones, AJ Stephan, Merlin Vilhauer, Kevin Wilson, Jackie Zayak, Jon Brissman, Dennis Carmen, Lesley Davis, Sharon Fairchild, John Fout or Bob Glasson, so I have no opinion”.

 

Exactly the issue. Are we in a position that almost nobody can identify, much less have confidence in, the members of the apparently all powerful ACBL Appeals & Charges Committee? If so, what got us to this point?

 

(Georgia Heth’s published playing record, ACBL and WBF:

2002 2 Bean Red Ribbon Pairs NABC

Year Event Rank Partner

2010 13th WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS

Philadelphia 2010 - Mixed Pairs - Qualifier 339(183) Jim REIMAN)

ACBL DECISION MAKING – PROACTIVE OR REACTIVE?

 

The longstanding ACBL BoD practice has been to avoid controversy.  Its concentration of power in the form of married legislative and judicial branches may have greatly reduced its ability to deal with cheating matters.

 

Shouldn’t there be a legislative function which is proactive, and a judiciary which is reactive? An example of proactivity, though likely difficult to implement, might be a conversion of ACBL NABC+ Championships to be “By Invitation Only” (this is not a proposal as such, but only a reference to the WBF policy). Another might be disclosure in advance, or ability to withdraw from, events in which convicted cheaters enter, a subject of much attention in and out of the expert community. Sabine Auken declares: “I am all for boycotting events, when the organizer has a choice and decides to let convicted cheaters, who have sued their way back into the game”.

 

Though currently controversial, proactive might include removing the traditional 4-person table and engaging only with computers in major championships.

 

Over the 80 years of its existence, the ACBL has titled its titular leader first, “Executive “Secretary”, then “CEO”, and now “Executive Director” Joe Jones. Surprisingly, I could not find “Joe Jones” listed under “Administration” on ACBL.org, but located references to Joe Jones in the “BridgeFeed” news sections. Has the new Executive Director been reduced to a figurehead who essentially manages headquarters, in direct contrast to the former CEO, who was extremely visible and set forth a flurry of new proposals?

 

Bobby Wolff on cheating: “At least to me, it is not nearly as important to have exactly the right people running the organization as it is for those who do to understand the gravity of what they are dealing with . . . To me, it leaves us with the caveat, if one or more who try and substitute their own subterfuge, but instead get caught, will then NEVER get a second opportunity to show their face. WITH OUR GAME BEING WHAT IT IS, IT IS THAT IMPORTANT!”

 

In 2015, Boye Brogeland risked his health, his bridge career, and his life to rip down the presumptive veil of secrecy and write an explosive, factual expose on current cheating. It got results!

 

It is my opinion that secrecy of anything that has a basis in fact, including of final decisions of any kind, is not viable in any democratic form of jurisprudence.

PROCEDURES

 

Regarding cheating related issues, there is no excuse for the dogma, and layers of secrecy, and absolute concentration of power in one person, surrounding cheating related issues. Current policies have become similar to the USA’s criminal charging and court activities, except for the secrecy and that, in the ACBL, any suspension pending hearing may only be “considered” if the “charged party has caused delay in holding the hearing”.

 

From the ACBL By-Laws and its Code of Disciplinary Regulations, there is no basis for complete secrecy in cheating related matters. “Accusations of unethical bridge conduct publicly made at an ACBL sanctioned event” is an extremely narrow restriction, since it permits open discussion, “not at an ACBL sanctioned event”, of anything or anyone related to cheating. How did this evolve over time to an absolute prohibition of any discussion whatever, in any form, anywhere that is public in nature?

 

“CDR 10.4 PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATIONS” (see page 2) is incomprehensible to me; perhaps others may shed light on the apparent fact that that nobody may discuss anything “which relates to matters that have been, are or might reasonably become subjects of business for that particular body”. This seemingly means ANYTHING, because CDR 10.4 does not limit itself at all, much less to cheating related issues. Neither is there a definition of “privileged” in CDR 10.4, despite that it is all about privileged information.

 

Massimo Lanzarotti’s hushed readmission, despite his longstanding sordid history, is a perfect example of eschewing best practices. Did the Appeals & Charges Committee truly have knowledge of this man’s entire past, or did they fall in line in a predictable way to Chairperson Heth’s urgings? Is the final authority of the A & C Committee, without input from anyone but the convicted cheat’s appearance before it, beneficial or detrimental in dealing with cheating?

 

As perhaps an example of best practices, in the 1984 Spingold, an unknown team handily defeated three extremely strong squads in succession; a Committee was convened, and the “Moses Ma Team” of MIT students was immediately expulsed.

 

In comparison, the United States judicial system generally has open charging and charges, provisions for immediately restricting the person or person, open hearings and proceedings, open sentencing/punishment, and no one person in charge. Its final authority, the Supreme Court, has 9 equal votes.

WBF & ACBL BIOS FOR GEORGIA HETH, AND CONCLUSION

 

Period Position Body2009- Member WBF Executive Council2009-2010 Member WBF Admissions, Zoning & Infrastructure Committee2008-2012 Member WBF Constitution & By-Laws Committee2009-2010 Member WBF Credentials Committee2010-2012 Chairman WBF Disciplinary Commission2010-2012 Member WBF Doping Hearing Panel Committee2009-2012 Member WBF Restructuring Committee2009-2010 Member WBF Youth Committee2005- Member ACBL Board of Directors2009- WBF Delegate ACBL Board of Directors

 

Georgia Heth

Email: district8director@acbl.orgFrom: Morton, Illinois District 8: Illinois except for Chicago, St.Louis and some of the rest of Missouri, northern Indiana and the Paducah, Kentucky area

Board committees: Appeals and Charges (Chair), Executive Director Search, Executive Director Review, and Bylaws (Chair)

Bridge experience: I have been playing for 34 years. My proudest moment is winning our first mutual masterpoint while playing with my son last year.

Volunteer service: Prior: Unit 208 board member, NAP coordinator and charity chairman, District 8 board member, president and judiciary committee chair. Current: District 8 GNT coordinator, member of WBF Executive Council and Management Committee, Honorary Secretary of WBF. President of Board of Trustees of the ACBL Charity Foundation.

Career/professional activities; Lawyer. After 26 years with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, I switched jobs last May and now work for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, representing the Department in child abuse and neglect hearings.

Education: Millikin University (English and American Studies); J.D., Stanford Law School; all of the prerequisites and half of the coursework for an M.B.A. from Illinois State University.

Hobbies and interests: Reading, traveling, visiting family. Not much time for anything else until I retire.FamilyI became a mother on December 22, 2014, when I adopted my son, Kortlan. He is my first and only child, and between him, bridge and work, I am kept plenty busy. I also have four nieces and became a great-aunt last year.

 

Is this the person who should be in virtually total charge of the ACBL’s final judicial decisions? Is there a management problem regarding cheating? Is total secrecy and/or Georgia Heth’s apparent absolute authority the problem?

 

Donald Mamula, who has been there and should know what he's talking about, has posted:

"I introduced a similar motion twice in the past while serving on the BoD. Twice it failed, primarily due to the efforts of the head of Appeals & Charges (who led the effort to reinstate Lanzarotti). The BoD has now had multiple times to just say NO. And every time, they get talked out of it by one of TPTB. Want to know why the ACBL and WBF haven't truly stood up against cheating? Look no further than Morton, Illinois [Georgia Heth's hometown] and the wonderful unit boards of District 8 [who elect the District Director]".

 

Based on Mamula's statement, does Georgia Heth intentionally derail BoD motions regarding cheating and cheats?  If so, is that to preserve a position of absolute power and authority?

 

CDR 3.4 only prohibits “accusations of unethical bridge conduct publicly made at an ACBL sanctioned event”, which does not mention anything about the BoD, about any judicial function, or about making accusations away from an ACBL sanctioned event. Would it be beneficial to adopt a more inclusive and frank discussion on all cheating related matters?

 

It’s my opinion that silence and concentrated political power contribute to cheating and cheaters, while vocal outcry eliminates scourges. I invite you be the judge, and to decide.

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