2-1-19
CCC Still Censured By the NCCA After 10 Years!?
An Expergated History of the NCCA
By NM Leland Fuerstman

A few weeks ago
, I emailed newly elected NCCA President Debs Pedigo requesting that CCC upcoming events and club info be included on the NCCA website. {I was not attempting to have my Life Membership reinstated}. The following is his response in "blue", interspersed with my own comments. - {If you wanna read this all in one sitting, I recommend that you pack your lunch and line up a few beers! LOL}

"NM Leland Fuerstman: Your exclusion from tournament and club listings was imposed by earlier boards based upon your behavior... {my behavior?? Dude, I'm the friendliest guy you'll ever meet. I am always well dressed, clean and presentable. I greet everyone with respect and love and I treat EVERYONE equally, regardless of race, color, creed, educational level, station in life, bank account size, or political affiliation. And, I rarely, if ever, get into disputes during tournament play. So, my "behavior" is perfectly fine. {But, occasionally, as a Sr. TD, I am required to deal with other people's bad behavior!} "and attacks {equating "politely asking a question" with an "attack"} on board members and others in the chess community..." {Other than being the webmaster of a chess website and a successful tournament chess player, I am also an expository chess journalist. And, as such, I publicly compliment everyone for their chess successes on our website. In addition, some concerned members occasionally contact me about improprieties which should be questioned. And, I have personally observed situations which needed explanation, as well. First, I would attempt to privately inquire through phone call or email. After receiving no response, I would compose messages which were posted on the CCC Message Board. I always made certain that I would only ask questions and NOT ACCUSE anyone of anything. I made it clear that the person involved had every opportunity to respond in kind, which in almost every case, they neglected to do. I was basing my opinion on accurate and verified information. Every question which I asked was pertinent and legitimate. But, there was one problem. Most guilty people simply don't like to be talked about in public! Instead of addressing the issues, they often resort to attacking the messenger -- Look, this is America. And, in America we have a deal called "freedom of speech!" I have a right to my opinion just like every other citizen. And, neither I, nor anyone else should be censured for expressing it. Besides, just for everyone's information, the original dispute occurred over 10 years ago!!? Please bear in mind that NM Leland Fuerstman was not cited for any violation of USCF rules nor civil law. Subsequently, in protest of the corruption and negligence of the administration at that time, I gave up my life membership and told them to take me off their list! Because I used the term, "renounce my membership," WW promptly equated that with renouncing my citizenship to the USA!? LOL After martial law had been imposed upon the members, eight months later, he composed a diatribe about NMLF in order to appease and protect his guilty past-president client. Please bear in mind that a trial attorney generally defends guilty people. He will lie, cheat, cry or do whatever is necessary to obfuscate the facts and seek an acquittal. Needless to say, most of what WW stated was inaccurate and completely unsubstantiated conjecture which I still dispute to this day. It was just his biased opinion. {He had a right to compose it; I had a right to dispute it!} USCF personnel agreed! The fact is, no formal document was EVER composed by any succeeding administration of the NCCA which censured me from anything save for WW's initial hateful diatribe which imposed a "2 year period before I could request reinstatement!!" Again, that was 10 years ago. Unfortunately, the next 5 administrations, due to their neglect to archive anything, were encouraged to enforce my "punishment" only through word of mouth, and have continued to censure NMLF from rejoining nor posting our information to this day?! No documents exist which indicate that they should. How draconian! How childish. How exclusive and arbitrary to single out one individual who was, in effect, complaining about high entry fees for scholastic events, poor returns, and excessive profits!? That was my crime. So much for noble causes...

Unfortunately, they have collectively neglected the NCCA archives, which included historical information, periodicals, news clippings, contributions from members through the years, all previously kept for the sake of posterity providing evidence of our history for future members. But, none of the succeeding administrations kept accurate records. Much less posted the official accounting of giant money making events organized by the NCCA. Worse, two prominent chess pundits complained to me that they had submitted informative articles and archival material which were NEVER processed nor published. According to one contributor who was snubbed, " a whole bunch of good work, for nothing."} "Having tournaments and a club listing is a privilege not a right that is automatically extended..." Yeah, a privilege which is bestowed upon some organizers who are not now, nor have they ever been members of the NCCA, but are freely allowed to post their info? But, not NMLF?! Pleeease? One set of rules for everyone else including NON-members, and one set of rules for NMLF who was a past president! How disrespectful? How disgraceful? How childish? How ridiculous?! "Although some on the board had hoped you had chosen to be less confrontational by reframing (sic) from attack postings on your message board your resent emails have made us feel that may not be the case..."First of all, the Charlotte Chess Club Message Board has been shut down and deactivated for over a YEAR! In fact, the last message which I posted on January 8, 2018, made reference to another scholastic tournament promoter who is not even a member of the NCCA. Furthermore, I have NEVER "attacked" any of the current officers of the NCCA on our message board, including Debs Pedigo

The reality of the situation is, Pedigo approached me a few months ago and told me that he was running for President of the NCCA! So, I congratulated him and asked whether he would see to it that the CCC's "Upcoming tournaments" and other club information will be included just like all of the other clubs. (the CCC was established over 45 years ago!!) His response was that if I would "refrain" from publicly endorsing him on our website, he would attempt to do so?!" I also asked about the accounting of previously conducted tournaments and whether they intended to publish a financial statement? He answered with, "they said they would publish a financial statement before the election." (whomever "they" are...) He also requested that I not even post anything on our website until the "election" was over. So, I yielded and according to his request, nothing was posted. --However, the week after the election, I approached him at the CCC and asked whether he had addressed our issue yet? And, why had the financial statement NOT been posted as he said it would? His answer was that "...he had more important things to take care of first??" {He also wrote me an E-mail which stressed that "...with regard to financial disclosure, the association isn't required to disclose any financial information publicly..." Gosh, that's a bit different from what he had originally told me} What business could be more logical and simple than to allow the club of which he is a member to post our info on the NCCA website? Furthermore, after I realized that he was just parroting what he was told by the "puppet master," I proceeded to write a PRIVATE E-mail which I addressed to all current NCCA officers. Because all of them are relatively new to NC chess politics, in order to better educate them about the past, I included an old message which was published some 5 years ago, but it was certainly not posted on our website, nor anywhere else for the chess public to view. From that, Pedigo deduced that I "might" write something like that in the future?!? How paranoid? {Sorta like, I think that you might try to hurt me in the future, so I'm gonna shoot you before you do... the good old preemptive strike! How ridiculous.} "Currently you are under indefinite suspension from having tournaments and club listed, imposed by earlier board..." Oh really?! Then, would you be kind enough to provide me with a copy of the original official document which states such a thing. It simply doesn't exist. "The current board has decided not to change that policy at this time..." That would give people the impression that each officer actually cast an executive VOTE on the matter. -- but, the results of how each officer voted, like everything else, are secret.

Well, after I received his response, I promptly called newly elected Vice President Dr. Walter High on the phone! I asked him whether he voted 'for' or 'against' allowing the CCC's info to be published on the NCCA website? I thought that I had developed a good relationship with Dr. High over the years and never recall publishing anything but good reports about him. But, he seemed to be somewhat startled by the sound of my voice and answered by saying that he is "directing my inquiry back to Debs Pedigo." Then, I asked, can't you simply tell me whether you voted yes or no? To which he responded, "this is what I was instructed to do!" Wow! Who programmed him? It was like a bad "B" rated spy movie!? The guy sounded like he was scared to death! What ever happened to free thought and the democratic system of representation?  Apparently, he had been sequestered not to communicate with "public chess enemy #1" NMLF? --In a perfect world, the officers would gather facts surrounding the issue and discuss them thoroughly before openly voting and disclosing the results. This is not a federal agency? It's a shabbily run chess company that represents a tiny number of people and has done very little to support our chess players over the past 10 years {save organize 2 scholastic tournaments a couple of years ago which grossed over 50 thousand dollars each! Yet, no accounting of those events was ever provided to anyone}. No oversight whatsoever. No transparency. Only secrecy and cronyism. -- Next, because his phone number is not listed, I promptly sent an email to Scholastic VP Grant Oen asking the same question. Again, I have interacted with Grant on a few occasions and thought that we had a perfectly friendly relationship. But, so far, I have received no response. I also attempted to ask the Sec/Treas. Wayne Spon the same question, but the email link they have posted went to past Sec/Tres. from 2 administrations ago, Sarah Walsh? {But, I already know his answer since he is one of WW's hometown appointees} --- Look people. There is absolutely nothing sacred about the NCCA. Last year, as a result of a ridiculous policy change which required everyone to pay their membership fee on January 1, the membership fell to approximately 40 paid members; the lowest in history?? Twenty eight less than the CCC! There are 2,211 members of the United States Chess Federation living in North Carolina. And, the NCCA represented less than 40 of them... pitiful. "We fully recognize the right to free speech within guidelines of non-defamation. The board also recognizes its right to not extend NCCA privileges if we feel they are not warranted. Debs Pedigo NCCA President" Now I ask you, people. Who is digging up the bones of the past here? Again, the CCC Message Board was disabled over a YEAR ago! Furthermore, the current crop of active "newbies" have absolutely no clue of what we're talking about.

The NCCA has been described by one long time chess pundit as a "private business which continues to be ruled by the iron hand of an overbearing, back woods attorney with a clipboard who demands that his 3 sycophants do his bidding."  For you newbies, he was alluding to past elections where WW would pervade the hallways prior to the elections with a clipboard in hand introducing himself to players in a mesmerizing and  intimidating fashion as Attorney for the NCCA WW. Then he asks, if they are not coming to the meeting, would they sign their name so he could use their vote for his candidates?! {a dubious proxy system for voting which he, himself, without approval, wrote into the Articles of Incorporation a few years earlier}. Some members took umbrage to that. Yet, the older guard unanimously agree that esteemed attorney WW had already "appointed" the candidates who apparently pledged their allegiance to him and faithfully followed his diktat. Generally, obsequious personalities who never question HIS authority and passively yield to his "recommendations" without questioning his true motivation. In effect, Debs Pedigo has perpetuated the problem that he was elected to alleviate. He has become a traitor to his own chess club. He has betrayed me, and he has betrayed his fellow members. I really don't think he knew what he was getting into when he decided to enter NCCA politics.

An effective leader must have thick skin. He must endure the criticism of others without over-reacting too quickly. He should not be so easily offended when his opponents allude to his inexperience and ignorance of the past. He should be receptive to those who approach him with "complaints" and "concerns" and not put them off with a statement like, "this is not the time or place to talk about that." {So, the following day, why doesn't he simply call them on the phone and talk about their concerns?} And, he should reach across the aisle and attempt to bring people together in order to work for the same good causes instead of striving to keep them apart. -- So, Debs Pedigo's first official order of business as President of the NCCA was to continue to censure NMLF and the Charlotte Chess Club. {some wonder whether an actual vote was even taken...}

I believe that I first joined the USCF way back in 1970!  Then, in 1984, right about the time that I achieved the Title of National Master, I was a candidate in an election to become the President of the North Carolina Chess Association. There were approximately 125 members of the NCCA in the playing room voting. Every single person in the room voted for me!! - elected by acclamation; No abstentions! At that point in my life, I could fairly claim to be the most popular chess figure in the state of North Carolina! My administration, which included Robert Singletary and Ken Baxter was without a doubt the MOST efficient in NCCA history! A well oiled machine where everyone had a job responsibility and accomplished his tasks in a timely fashion. With the help of my wife, I published the "Carolina Gambit Magazine" every two months. It was the most comprehensive magazine this state has ever seen. It took weeks to compose and compile, publish and distribute. {then, I had to turn around and do it all over again, for FREE} In order to save money for the organization, my wife and I would sit on the floor for hours sorting zip code addresses for bulk mail purposes. I organized major events for the NCCA which were always grandly successful, ie. the 1985 NC Championship - low entry fee, giant turnout, prize fund sponsors and great cash prize payback. CPA Ken Baxter was the accountant for the event. We paid out 98% of the EF's. I didn't make one red cent. {Needless to say, my lovely ex-wife was not very happy about that...} Regardless, the overall environment in the entire state was an up-beat friendly one. Everyone was happy, and things readily got done. Jealousy had not yet rared it's ugly head.

Up to this point, NCCA Legal Advisor A. Wilder Wadford and I were good friends. We had long phone conversations, met at chess tournaments in the early 70's, socialized, took vacations and successfully solved the problems of all state chess affairs. I gave him free entry and hotel rooms to my Charlotte tournaments as he did likewise in Asheville. Then, there was a period of time when we ceased communication. Sometimes, "familiarity breeds contempt." For one foolish reason or another we became at odds with each other. Possibly due to personal issues which shall not be elaborated upon here. One pundit described us as "2 egomaniacal   moose who have locked horns and won't budge an inch!" In fact, after a number of years of not seeing nor speaking to each other, I actually ran into him recently at a tournament here in Charlotte where he greeted me with a smile and asked me if I "wanted back in!!?" {He actually looked pretty good for a man his age; ...I'm older!..} When I responded with, "we still have a few issues which need to be discussed and resolved" he seemed to get angry. A brief verbal skirmish ensued which ended in stalemate.  

The NCCA became less and less effective - competent officers were hard to find. Finally, in 2000, an unscrupulous President decided that it was perfectly acceptable to eat lavish and expensive steak & lobster dinners on his personal NCCA expense account! to the degree that the treasury was all but wiped out! So, NCCA Legal Adviser WW stepped in and appointed my old friend NM Neal Harris to take the reins. When Neal took over, the balance of the treasury was less than $50?! But, he proceeded to get the organization back on it's feet and humming after a fashion. As time went on, he sold memberships and promoted events for the NCCA which generated profit. As I recall, he served 3 consecutive terms without any major shakeups nor interference. Actually, a simple thing to do... when you publicly asked President Harris a question, he promptly answered it! -- {Wow! What a novel idea!}

After Harris departed, came 5 successive administrations comprised of inexperienced and unqualified wannabes, all basically recruited and appointed by WW. One organized a scholastic event which generated a significant amount of controversy after some members questioned the poor payback and excessive profits. That past-president refused to provide any official documentation and continued to deny his guilt. {he ended up hiring WW to defend him from those asking questions*}.  A couple of them bent the rules in order to personally profit from events they assigned to their own "chess company!" {which is not such a terrible thing, but that's not the way the rules were written - fact is, there were absolutely no "by-laws" whatsoever, for years and years} Another president changed NCCA policies which had been in place for over 70 years without the approval of the members which directly caused the membership to decline to the lowest numbers in history. Because, WW changed the constitution (or Articles of Incorporation) taking away a member's right to vote except in elections! One president was involved in the organization and promotion of 2 major scholastic events which grossed over $50K each but never made any financial disclosures nor reports. And still other presidents and vice presidents basically did little to nothing during their tenure. Not to mention the litany of temporary officers who observed what was really going on and promptly quit... The only thing those presidents had in common were incompetence, negligence and the refusal or inability to do anything really positive for the North Carolina chess community.

Now, here's the good part. --- As I have already stated to Debs Pedigo, I am NOT his enemy. Debs joined the Charlotte Chess Club in January of 2013. I believe he's about my age (39!). I would describe him as a well-kempt, quiet and reserved Southern gentleman with a friendly attitude. A man of means, he owned a group of successful retail stores which he recently sold when he retired. I sincerely believe him to be an honest person who truly has a desire to improve the state of affairs of the NCCA. However, I also fear that he may have been unduly influenced by recommendations of an advisor with a rusty chip on his shoulder. Let's just hope that, in his zeal, Debs doesn't attempt to collect NCCA membership fees from Charlotte Chess Club members?! {Wouldn't that be "taxation without representation!?" Besides, though our math suggests significantly more, the last figure I heard for the balance of the NCCA treasury was over $40,000! One hundred NCCA annual fees  add up to  $1,000?! Who needs it? They should long ago have included annual membership into the entry fee of the N.C. Championship and other events. Besides, they don't do anything meaningful with the money, anyway. Their entire system is convoluted, unaccounted for and completely non-transparent.}

If Debs were to step back a bit, and look at the big picture, maybe he will change his mind. I am willing to tear down the wall and bury the hatchet. I have already offered my assistance to help rewrite the constitution and by-laws which, so far, he has not accepted. Furthermore, there are a number of other qualified "administrative types" in this state who could be of great value to the organization under the right circumstances. Finally, if I were to receive a formal public apology, I may even be encouraged to return and help the cause. After all, who else possesses my incomparable clerical skills and witty journalistic insights?!

Regardless of my well know sentiments, let's hope this new administration does a better job then their predecessors while bearing in mind that "the grandest intention does not equal the slightest deed."

I remain,
NM Leland Fuerstman
www.charlottechess.com