I’ve been removed from the Rockford Rage Roller Derby League. If you planned on going to see me skate or to support my team, I will not be there.
On April 11th 2007 three days before our last bout at the ISC I received an e-mail from a nice student film maker asking if she could meet with our team. She wanted to do a five minute documentary about the Demolition Dolls. I forwarded the e-mail to my captain and I called SR a corporate director to see what she thought. SR said it sounded fun and I called the student film maker back and told her where the next public practice was. She said she wanted to come and talk to the team.
I went to practice, I saw the film maker, some of my team mates overheard the conversation we were having and got excited about the idea of a documentary about us. She wanted an answer about filming soon so she could get a camera on loan form her school for the bout. I asked if we could get four skater board members together right there at practice and get an ‘ok’. The four came together and decided it would be ok as long as she didn’t get in the way or create confusion. The next morning I awoke to a message from the president of the league stating the filming would not happen because no one called her and she hadn’t seen any paperwork.
I have always operated under the understanding that four votes (of seven) from the skater board made something acceptable and so I asked the president of the league what gave her the power to just override four votes. I was told “Because I own the league and I am liable because my name is on the business license” I filed it away in my brain until the bout was over but not without telling the President of the League I thought that was terrible. I brought it up the next day at the end of the Sunday meeting after the bout. I waited until the meeting was over because I didn’t want to raise alarm or rumor about the not for profit status of the league. I stayed after that night for three hours asking questions of SR. There were other skaters present for parts of the conversation. I was told the President, Secretary and the Treasurer have their names on the business license and so they have final say on any and all corporate matters. The “Skater Board” positions are what the skaters actually vote for hold only influence but no real power. The skater board decisions can be overturned by the corporate directors at anytime.
This didn’t sit well with me. I’ve been paying dues thinking it gave me a voice - my vote. I went on to ask if the directors paid themselves and was told no. I asked if they could vote to pay themselves and was told yes, I asked what stops the three from splitting the money currently in the bank account three ways for compensation of their efforts in forming the league and dissolving it all tomorrow and the response was “You just have to trust us.” When I asked what happens to the position if someone wants to quit, moves or passes away. I was told that the director can sell those shares or even will them to a family member. To say I was alarmed is an understatement. My mouth was agape during this conversation and I commented several times “Really?” And “You have to TELL people this, we need to have a league meeting to explain this to people” I went home and couldn’t sleep. I called my captain the next morning and expressed my concerns; I talked to a few other skaters who had mentioned the same kinds of questions to me. We got together and decided we needed to fully understand how the vote and who is chosen for the corporate board works as well as who has the authority to spend the money of the league.
Tuesday I ran a fever and stayed home from practice, Wednesday wasn’t better I stayed home again, both days I talked to my captain and told her that I’d be at practice on Thursday. I called SR the Corporate Director on Wednesday to ask her for a copy of the bylaws. She didn’t call me back.
While I was home sick I learned, you cannot own a not for profit. You cannot sell shares and you cannot bestow them to a family member upon your death. Should you leave your position for any reason the voting members remaining on the board vote to fill the position. I also found that when setting up the corporate bylaws for a not for profit, the corporation must indicate the length of the term for each corporate director in the bylaws. It can be one year, five years, staggered, or even indefinite. Indefinite seemed unreasonable but fixable because two thirds of the voting body can change the bylaws by vote, making it possible to change the term of the directors from forever to limited. I needed to see the bylaws to clearly understand how it all worked. On Thursday at practice I asked for a copy of them was told by SR she would have to check with the other two corporate directors to see who might have a copy but they are public record. Then SR said this:
“You’re gonna be a little surprised though…”
I replied “Oh, why?”
SR informed me that the only members of the league listed as “members” when they filed with the state were the three also currently listed as corporate directors. I clarified by asking her if that meant they were the only three voting members of the Rockford Rage. She agreed that they were the only three voting members of the corporate board; (meaning they can just keep electing each other.) She added we all have a vote when it comes time to vote for the skater board and they always pay careful attention to the skater board opinions. I asked if we would be added as voting members before the July elections and was told they had never planned on it because changing the names on the business license with the state all the time was hard and with skater turn over it would be really hard and besides who would really want all that liability. My heart sank and despite the fact that my husband and I were invited to attend a “skater appreciation dinner” paid for by the league, last month where a big speech was made and we were all told what a boon to the league we were and how “it all never could’ve all happened without us” I knew I was now at the mercy of the corporate board. I again encouraged SR to inform people in a league meeting what she had just told me and I added sooner was better than later.
On Friday, I e-mailed a request for the corporate bylaws to the three board members the President, the Secretary and the Treasurer. On Saturday April 21st 2007 I was removed from the league via a phone call with the three corporate board members on one end and me on the other, for the following reasons
Not meeting the May marketing deadline
Not updating the website timely manor
Not passing on business contacts to the corporate board
I can address each one of these and explain to you how the accusations have no merit, however, it really wouldn’t matter; the prosecutor, judges and jury are all the same people; the three corporate directors and the trial happened behind closed doors without me present. Besides, I don’t think it’s really my burden. In a democracy people are innocent first.
The thing is, we all worked so very hard putting time, money and boundless effort into the league thinking we were working for our fellow skaters all the time not knowing about the unchecked power of the three corporate board members. All the time listening to them tout “By the Skaters for the Skaters” What I had my eyes opened to this week broke my heart. I feel totally exploited and lied to. I feel misled about the original intent of how the league would run. I feel used and deceived. I’ve spent hours and hours a day working on marketing for the league. I’ve spent my own money on derby projects and my whole family and many friends have invested time, money and emotions in this league. I would like to add that I only agreed to take the marketing Director position after the corporate board fired the last person and begged me to salvage what was left behind. I had been doing the marketing for a total of two months.
I paid dues to be treated like this and was thrown away without due process.
This has astonished me and the more I thought about it the more I decided telling my story out in the open was a good thing, especially in light of the accusations of collusion surrounding my departure and the possible blame that may be laid at my feet should the league fall to pieces. Normally I don’t air my troubles to the internet (its true look back over two years of mostly happy posts) yet, today I am. It’s important for me to tell my friends and family what happened and why I no longer skate for the Rockford Rage Women’s Roller Derby.
The good news is I’m back to blogging. I have all kinds of time now. I just am not sure what to do with the non-refundable plane ticket to Roller Con/Las Vegas I bought for the middle of August.