In an email update addressing the reorganization of TBA which was sent to members the morning of May 1st, Chris Moore, president of Texas Beekeepers Association, said “My desire is to be as open and transparent – both personally and for TBA as an organization – as I can.” He followed this with “discussions and deliberations are, by necessity, confidential to the TBA officers and board until informed decisions can be made.” This has been the message we’ve received from the TBA board for quite some time now; they say they’d like to give the membership access to information about what’s going on… but they won’t.
I went to TBA Summer Clinic in Conroe on June 30th. I gave my “Fights About Mites” presentation and a presentation on bee removal work. I spent the rest of my time there chatting with beekeepers from around the state and listening to Dr. Jamie Ellis speak on a series of topics over the span of the day. It was a great day, and a huge success, which just makes it all the more disappointing and worrisome that TBA won’t allow members to attend board meetings, won’t provide board meeting minutes to the membership, and generally operates in secret behind closed doors. It’s strange to keep information secret if it consists of details that would impress and reassure. It’s strange for triumph to be marked with what essentially amounts to a gag order on the content of board meetings. At $50 per person TBA just brought in around $34,000 on Summer Clinic registrations alone. That doesn’t take into account TBA merchandise, or the money generated by having Roger Farr uncomfortably begging for twenty dollar bills to fill honey supers that TBA had the Texas Honey Queen Program girls carrying around the room. It’s strange that the TBA board members don’t seem to think that the members deserve to know how this money will be spent.
I have personally been asking for access to more information for some time now. My concern regarding transparency started last year, when TBA was pushing hard for House Bill 1293 to update Chapter 131 of the Texas Ag Code: a bill that they eventually and reluctantly admitted (after the information had already been leaked) that even some of the board members were against.
This Spring, after the TBA delegates meeting in Conroe, I asked TBA Director Tanya Phillips if members were allowed to sit in on TBA board meetings. As president of my local/regional club, Trinity Valley Beekeepers Association, I knew it was standard for us to encourage members to attend meetings of the board. Tanya pointed out that her husband had sat in on board meetings before, and encouraged me to ask President Chris Moore. When asked, Chris Moore said he wasn’t sure if that would be ok or not, and went to ask Leesa Hyder, who is the appointed TBA Secretary. Before long Chris returned and told me members were not allowed in board meetings.
Since Summer Clinic traditionally marks the next required TBA board meeting, I called and asked TBA Director Ashley Ralph when and where the board meeting was, and made it clear I wanted to attend. She said I should email the board asking for that information. I did so. My email was ignored entirely by the TBA board… not one of them has responded to it to date. I showed up for Summer Clinic still asking to attend the board meeting, and was told that Chris Moore should have answered my email, and that the board meeting had been held the day before. Requests for minutes from the Spring board meeting have been ignored. Requests for minutes from Summer Clinic board meeting have been ignored. If any board meeting minutes at all have ever been made available to the membership I’m not aware of it. Even the minutes from the 2017 annual members meeting have not been made available, despite conflicting versions of the resolutions which were passed at that meeting having been published in the TBA Journal.
Most beekeeping clubs operate with extreme transparency. Lone Star Beekeepers Association board meetings are open to members. In a recent social media inquiry every local club leader who responded stated that their club communicates openly with the members and allows members to attend board meetings. Comments included “All of our club board meetings are open to everyone.” and “Excluding [the members] cries out that something is deeply wrong with the organization.” The TBA board has a history of being fearful of its members; there was a lot of attention given to the possibility that “troublemakers” would “disrupt” the annual business meeting last year… presumably by asking hard questions or expressing an opinion contrary to that of the board.
Is there a downside to open and transparent conduct? Essentially, from the perspective of a board that has forgotten that they are servants of the membership, I would say yes, it is conceivable that there is. There is the risk that the membership will demand a process, or a timeline, or a bylaw wording, that the members want but the board does not. There is a history of TBA board members clearly viewing member input and contribution as opposition; most infamously, opposition by the membership to board actions was compared to Cain and Abel, to slavery, and to WWII-era Europe in a presentation by TBA Director Roger Farr at the 2017 delegates meeting… a comparison which he has never seen fit to publicly retract or apologize for, and other board members have never seen fit to expect that he do so.
So the question remains: what is the TBA board so afraid of sharing with the membership? Why meet behind closed doors and demand confidentiality? What secret could look worse than the secrecy itself?
In a surprising email from TBA, Chris Moore, President, informed members that on June 22 they received an unauthorized email from someone called The Texan Beekeeper. This grievous attack on TBA came out of nowhere apparently.
But wait. What terrible news was in the email? I received the email, so I looked through it again. It opened with a brief introduction and invitation/announcement that Lone Star Beekeepers is open for business. That’s not the best message for beekeepers if you’re TBA, but it seems harmless enough to invite someone to consider something. It was polite and factual. There was a brief write up about heat stress and remedies for it. Something about “watch out for snakes” too. There was a list of local/regional clubs that currently operate as recognized 501c3s. And the Texan Beekeeper was kind enough to point folks our way at SaveTexasBeekeepers.org as well as towards a couple of other online resources. Then there was an update on the TBA 131 Committee, Ashley Ralph, Chair. That was followed by a short explanation of mite counting with sticky boards.
What is so terrible about this email? You’ll have to ask Chris if you’re confused. Email him here.
But what is this nonsense in Chris’ email? “TBA did not authorize this email….” The email did not say otherwise. The Texan Beekeeper clearly did not pretend to speak for TBA or mislead readers to think that the email had much to do with TBA at all. “TBA recognizes this breach of member information and regrets any inconvenience caused to TBA members.” Breach? What breach? Most TBA members voluntarily list themselves in the TBA member directory, available for members only (password protected area only). I know I just clicked that box last week when I renewed my membership. I am always eager to hear from my fellow beekeepers! Perhaps TBA members who didn’t authorize their listing were breached? Chris isn’t clear about this question.
If you’re like most beekeepers, you get a few emails like The Texan Beekeeper each week. Some are great. Some are worthless. Some are trying to sell you something. They’re just emails. I couldn’t tell you where 10% come from. Who cares? In the arena of ideas, we at SaveTexasBeekeepers suggest that the more, the merrier!
Chris specifically accuses The Texan Beekeeper of breaching TBA data, but then only mentions member emails as compromised. Were other data compromised? Credit card numbers? Addresses? Members’ local club affiliations? Those would obviously be more serious problems.
Perhaps this breach is related to other breaches that TBA has quietly suffered in the past? The Coastal Bend Beekeepers Association (my group) initially took advantage of TBA’s web hosting in 2016 only to suffer multiple incidences of hacking of our site, the latest resulting in our page being turned into a Japanese mattress sales site. We have since moved the page to somewhere we hope will be safer. So TBA’s concern for online security is valid, though perhaps misplaced.
Here at SaveTexasBeekeepers we publish reliable beekeeping news that is attributed to specific writers (Principle Writers of the blog, or guest writers by invitation). The practice of writing “anonymously” though, has a long and famous history. Ben Franklin was famous for his pen names. Here are just a few of them:
- Richard Saunders (aka Poor Richard, a name so recognized and influential a Navy ship was so named).
- Mrs. Silence Doogood
- Caelia Shortface and Martha Careful
- Busy Body
- Polly Baker
There were many other names that Franklin invented and used as a force for extreme good during his time. Polly Baker, for example, was used to advocate against the poor treatment of women. Often, these pen names are open secrets. What does it matter? Certainly, anonymous writers may also disrupt too, but writing anonymously places the emphasis on the only thing that matters, the writing, the ideas. So the question becomes, what ideas are so fear-inspiring to TBA?
The Agriculture and Livestock Committee of the Texas House will hold hearings on pollinator health issues in July. The committee will meet jointly with the Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism.
The charge of the hearing is given below.
“Study the effects of declining migratory species, such as the monarch butterfly, as well as native and domesticated bee populations on agricultural production and its economic impact on the state. Identify possible causes of the population changes and monitor national trends. Make recommendations on how to improve and promote monarch butterfly and bee populations and habitats in the state.”
Beekeepers who wish to provide testimony or speak about the issues may contact their state representatives or the committee members’ office contacts.
When: Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at 10AM
Where: State Capitol Room E2.010
Who: Committee Chair, Rep. Tracy King (512-463-0194)