Have you heard about EC’s Special Reverse Advent Calendar? When you open a door, instead of receiving a little gift you find that something has been taken away. Yesterday we opened the cute little cardboard double doors with elves on them and found out that we no longer have a CEO at EC. Merry Christmas!

On the 17th day of Christmas, EC took from me,

The CEO before his first anniversareeeee!

EC hasn’t managed to get the announcement up on its site so I can’t provide a link, but since it’s so brief (and enticingly mysterious!), I’ll just copy and paste it here:

Equine Canada Announcement

Ottawa, ON December 17, 2013 — Equine Canada regrets to announce that its Chief Executive Officer Jean-Christophe Gandubert has left Equine Canada.  Equine Canada sincerely thanks Mr. Gandubert for his contributions to the organization and wishes him all the very best in his future endeavours.

What clever wording! It leaves us in tortured speculation, just like any good murder mystery. Did Jean Christophe Gandubert (JCG) drop EC or did EC drop him? I can’t answer that question but I can at least tell you this. I was at a barn today where a number of EC members keep their horses. They all got the announcement, and to a person they immediately assumed that he was fired. They also found the announcement just a tad bizarre in its wording. What I sincerely hope, dear EC members who seem always so sleepy when it comes to caring about your federation, is that it lights a fire under you all to ask the questions that need to be asked. In case you are wanting to send a message to EC Prez Mike Gallagher (mike4755@nb.sympatico.ca), here are a few sample questions you are welcome to copy and paste into your email to him:

1. Does the EC Board, and does the EC President, as Leader of that Board, feel any responsibility to its members to disclose why JCG is no longer in the employ of EC as its CEO? The extensive recruitment process and the subsequent salary that was paid to him for the nine and a half months he was in the job (and presumably some severance to come) were paid for by members  like me. I believe the members are entitled to an explanation.

2. JCG presumably passed his six month review in September, since he was still there for three more months. If he was fired (and I’m not saying he was), what could materially have gone so wrong so soon after the six month review? Sure, he might have been given a conditional pass in September with an order to pull up one boot strap or the other, but surely three more months is hardly enough time to give to someone in the position of CEO. His departure before even a year had gone by would suggest there was something very, very wrong with his performance, since nine months is not nearly long enough a period to give a CEO adequate time to either start delivering or prove himself incompetent – unless he had done something truly heinous. As above, I believe members have a right to know.

3. Has the EC Board given any consideration to renaming its ERRR (Executive Recruitment Retention and Review) Committee? It seems you have one too many ‘R’s in there.

4. Does the EC Board intend to attempt to hire a new CEO? Will the interview involve serving a drink to the successful candidate that contains GHB so that he or she can’t run off before he or she is placed in EC’s ultimate musical chair?

I have already received enough threats of law suits for this year (one, today) so I’m going to limit the commentary to my own observations about the short arc across the sky of our most recently departed CEO. I did not have the best first impression of JCG. When I emailed him shortly after he took the job as EC’s new Fearless Leader, he didn’t reply. That’s a bit of a red cape for a muck raker like me. But eventually I did manage to persuade him to talk to me, and to give several interviews. Considering the fact that I tend to paint people with a wide brush, there was some distance to go to restore my opinion of the CEO to neutral – never mind a plus score. But eventually I did arrive there. I spoke to JCG about a wide range of topics: the provinces, EHV-1, Bromont’s WEG bid, staffing challenges in the EC office, his work-to-date shortly after his six month review, and the Pan Am Games. Here is what I observed in our conversations. He answered questions thoughtfully and with an impressive amount of knowledge of the topics, as complicated and wide-ranging as they were – especially for someone who has not worked in the equestrian industry before. He also readily admitted to making mistakes, such as having ‘stepped on toes’ and finding himself needing to take a step back. I have to say that this last quality resonated with me. Admitting one’s mistakes is among my top ten great qualities in a leader – no, one of the top three – and JCG quite clearly demonstrated  his possession of that ability.

Before I urge all of EC’s members to spend at least a minute or two reflecting on the current situation as you decorate your trees, cut out gingerbread cookies and wrap up stud muffins for your horses, here’s one more bit of food for thought: Let’s pretend we know nothing about whether JCG was good, bad or indifferent at his job. Let’s also say we have no idea if he resigned or was sacked. There is still a lingering question: what kind of a national sport organization are we all paying our membership dollars to if its Board hires that organization’s most senior employee only to either lose him  or to find that they had hired someone so unsuited to the job that he didn’t last a year?

I don’t believe in Santa but I do have a Christmas Wish. I wish that every single member of EC will cast a vote in the election for Director-At-Large. The EC Board currently consists of 13 members plus the President.  A single Board member can make a significant difference to the level of competency of the Board as a whole, and goodness knows we could use a little more competency. Not only that: the current EC Prez will step down in 2014, and the new Prez will be chosen by the Board from within its members.

Please go on the EC site, read each of the bios of the three candidates, and decide which candidate best represents your interests and those of the federation as a whole. I personally believe there is a shortage of Board members with a high level of experience on other, similar boards, and with an understanding of how elite sport can thrive only if there is a healthy national federation that feeds the bottom while placing value on the top.

I’m going to give EC the lopsided benefit-of-the doubt and assume that the reason the announcement about the voting for director-at-large came out five days after voting opened was just EC doing its M&C behind-the-times business as usual, and not a calculated move to delay the call to vote to come out only after the last quiet-weekend-before-Christmas-when-people-might-have-time-to-take-an-interest. I’m also going to assume that the reason the voting period takes place during the Christmas holidays and straddles the end of the membership year (please vote before December 31st unless you have already renewed for 2014) is just a bit of poor planning and not a deliberate attempt to suppress voting.  I’m sure it’s just latent cynicism leading me to suspect that there are those who would prefer to see the voting numbers at the same pathetically low numbers they were last year, because the lower the voter turn-out the more easily the results can be controlled by a single campaign for one candidate.

And speaking of candidates, while I was preparing to vote the other day and doing my personal due diligence, I visited the bio pages for all three director-at-large candidates. I couldn’t help noticing that Tony LaGiorgia, who is hoping to be re-elected for a second term, has created a website to promote his campaign. Or rather, he has a site that was created by Outrageous Creations, the web design company of fellow Board member Kerri McGregor. Kerri was Canada’s Olympic Equestrian Team Chef de Mission at the 2012 London Olympics, a role that she took over from former Team Chef de Mission Mike Gallagher, our outgoing Prez. I’m not saying there is any meaning in all these little coincidences – just sharing the observation that they exist.

Please vote. And please demand answers from the EC Board. We deserve them. We pay the bills.