Report on the 2012 LifeRing Congress

As part of our Annual Meeting, LifeRing holds its yearly Congress where certain organizational matters are dealt with by official delegates. Delegates include current embers of the board and current Regional Representatives, plus elected representatives of each open LifeRing meeting, face-to-face or online. The Congress hears reports from each of the delegates about the state of their meetings, and has the power to amend the bylaws and to elect new members of the board, as well as to adopt motions and resolutions on other matters. The powers of the Congress are superior to the powers of the board and officers. During the meeting, officers give reports giving their comments as one year comes to an end and another begins.

To read the report submitted by retiring Executive Director Kathleen Gargan, click here.

To read the report offered by Board of Directors Chair Craig Whalley, click here.

And to read the two financial reports submitted by Treasurer Carola Ziermann, click here for the 2011 Income and Expense Report and here for the 2011 Balance Sheet

The Congress considered several possible amendments to the bylaws. First, came a provision endorsed by the current board to allow for the possibility of hiring a paid professional as Executive Director. Since the retirement of Martin Nicolaus, the board has struggled to match his productivity and skills acquired through his many years at the helm of LifeRing. Both his successors, Craig Whalley and Kathleen Gargan, had successful terms, but both were very aware of their limitations in running a growing non-profit. It became increasingly clear to them, and to the board, that at some point it will be desirable to have a person with training and experience, along with time and energy, to continue to move the group forward. At this time, LifeRing lacks the financial resources to move towards hiring anyone, but the board wanted the flexibility for the future.  The amendment was approved by the Congress after discussion by a unanimous vote. It can be seen here.

The second issue raised this year for consideration had to do with our current practice of requiring a delegate’s physical presence at the annual meeting in order to vote on matters before the group. As LifeRing has grown beyond the Bay Area, many members have felt effectively disenfranchised by the requirement to travel great distances, at considerable expense, to attend the meetings and express their views. The current Board of Directors was largely sympathetic to the idea of establishing a system for absentee voting, but felt that it had not been studied carefully enough to vote at this year’s meeting. The idea carries with it the need for careful examination of existing bylaws to ensure against conflicts and also the creation of a mechanism to bring the new system about. In the end, the Congress approved a resolution asking the board to prepare the ground for absentee voting in such a way that it can be, if adopted by the 2013 Congress, put into immediate effect. See the wording of the resolution on this page.

The Congress also considered several other amendments that had been proposed to it for consideration prior to the Congress. These dealt with the size of the board (whether it should be expanded), possible compensation for officers and board members, and the possibility of persons not in recovery serving as board members or convenors. After discussion, all of these proposals were voted down by unanimous vote.

The Congress then moved on to the election of board members. Four of the nine seats were up for vote. Three current members of the board opted to run for re-election and drew no opponents. One vacancy was created by the retirement from the board of Lauretta M., who stepped down reluctantly due to lack of time available. Troy Spears’s name was placed in nomination for that seat. The four candidates for the four seats were then elected without opposition. Each year, three seats on the board become available and are voted on at the Congress.

After the Congress concluded, the board held a brief meeting of its own to see to the election of officers, to welcome Troy Spears to the board, and to bid a fond goodbye to Lauretta. Robert Stump, who also serves as LifeRing’s Office Manager was elected to be the new Executive Director. Robert brings great organizational skills to the job and has long and intimate experience with LifeRing, serving as a convenor for many years and more recently as Treasurer. He brings well-developed computer skills to the job as well. Carola Ziermann, who replaced Robert as treasurer a few months ago, was elected to continue in that position and Tim Reith will continue as Board Secretary. Craig Whalley will continue as Board Chair.