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Setting the Record Straight

Why the USA Dance Minnesota Board Really Cancelled Star of the North

By Daniel O'Connell

On January 23rd the executive committee of USA Dance Minnesota Chapter #2011 notified me, a former sponsor of Star of the North, and three other former volunteers that USA Dance Minnesota Chapter #2011 was withdrawing as host of the 2014 Star of the North DanceSport Classic and canceling the competition. In particular, it claimed that it was doing so because it "learned an unauthorized, unapproved, and unviewed contract with the Crowne Plaza Hotel had been signed last July." The executive committee further claimed, "in retrospect, the board would not have approved this contract if given the chance to do so," and it claimed that the contract is void "because it was signed without appropriate review, authorization, and approval of the full board."

However, I believe this version of events omits key information. I write this article because I believe the community has a right to see a more complete telling of the story.

In July, the facilities coordinator for Star of the North negotiated a tremendous contract and went to Jane Phipps, the treasurer for USA Dance Minnesota Chapter #2011, for a deposit. Jane, when meeting with the facilities coordinator to hand over the deposit, saw the contract and looked through it. It can be confirmed (through willingness to testify and/or through writing) that a majority of board members were aware that a contract was going to be signed prior to the contract's actual signing. As board president, I signed the contract. This contract was superior to the previous year's contract, which was over twice as expensive for half the space. The entire board can be confirmed to have been informed, at the latest, at the first available board meeting on August 6th. At that meeting, the board was informed that the contract was a standard hotel contract and of its approximate contents: that it cost less for more space than the previous year's contract. No board member objected at the time, and no board member stated that they felt the board should be called upon to approve the contract.

In November, the board removed me as a board member (against bylaws) and alienated core volunteers and sponsors of the chapter. These resources were necessary components for Star of the North to continue, as current members of the board have never put in more than one-tenth of the total time and money of the individuals they saw fit to alienate. A review of hours spent and money donated by the current board members compared to the former volunteers and sponsors would corroborate this fact.

Correspondence in December and January from the board to the volunteers and sponsors they alienated indicated intent to hold the competition, and further correspondence in this time frame reaffirmed that they had knowledge of the existence the hotel contract. Only after the board was told verbally and in writing that it had alienated these resources did the board seek cancellation of the contract.

To this day, no board member has stated what specifically about the contract they would not have approved if given the chance.

From the above, we can see that the board members believed they had an obligation to approve the contract. However, by waiting over five months to make that claim, the board failed to do their fiduciary duty by failing to protect the chapter from an obligation taken in its name of which they had prior and persisting knowledge. In other words, by their own admission, they've demonstrated that they have failed to carry out the responsibilities of their positions.

In addition, the timeline of events shows that the executive committee's failure to follow bylaws and their alienation of volunteers is the true precipitating event for the cancellation of Star of the North. To make matters worse, rather than maintaining a good relationship with the hotel for future years, the executive committee consisting of Leland Whitney, Bonnie Burton, Leslie Whitney, and Jane Phipps misrepresented its knowledge of the contract and its intentions regarding the contract, forcing the hotel to litigate against the organization if it wants the termination damages the hotel is likely legally entitled to receive.

I strongly urge the community to consider the facts above and decide whether the board is properly representing the truth about its behavior and whether it is taking actions that benefit the dance community.