Column #465 Can the American Darts Organization be Saved?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Column 465
Can the American Darts Organization be Saved?

The more I shake the bushes to coax out information – long kept secrets – about the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) financial situation and related matters, the more shocked I am at what I learn – and the more concerned I become.

What exactly happened?  How it could be that:

  • Since 2008, the ADO, Inc. Massachusetts Corporation did not file (until this March) required paperwork with the State of Massachusetts leading to the revocation of its status in 2012;
  • ADO, Inc. did not file with the IRS for several years leading to the revocation of its status in 2011; and
  • The Memorial Scholarship Fund (for kids!) did not file with the IRS for multiple years leading to the revocation of its status in 2010.

And why – to whose advantage and exactly what advantage – was it that all of the above, and more, was kept quiet while ADO members blindly continued to pay dues?  It is extremely disconcerting.

Who was responsible?

Who with responsibility to steward the organization knew what was going on and did nothing?

Who knew and tried to do something but was unsuccessful?

Who with governance responsibility was unaware of everything?

What was the ADO’s Chief Financial Officer doing?  This position is required by the ADO’s by-laws (Article IX, Section 5) to 1) provide a quarterly financial report to the board, 2) appoint an accounting firm to compile financial data, prepare reports and submit required forms, licenses, etc. in a timely manner, 3) annually (at the ADO board’s spring meeting) present the previous year’s financial report to the board, and 4) to once-a-year prepare a simplified financial report to be published in the Double Eagle.  Was any of this done?  If it wasn’t, why wasn’t it?  If it was, then the entire board has known the gory details for a long, long time.  When was the last time anybody saw a Double Eagle (which, it’s worth noting, is listed – as a quarterly publication – as one of the benefits to all ADO members).  When was the last independent audit?  When was the last time anybody saw a proper financial statement?

The ADO’s General Secretary is required (Article IX, Section 4) to preserve the minutes of meetings, have the minutes of the business portion of the meeting available within 10 days of the meeting, keep a permanent record for all organization members and make all required reports pertaining to the activities of the organization.  Has any of this been done?  When?  Has anybody seen it?  Do the minutes reflect any peep of what is now such disturbing public knowledge?

What was the ADO’s Director of Operations/Office Manager charged with doing and what did this individual do, or not do?  Who did/does this individual report to?  Is there a job description?  Is there an annual review?  What is this individual paid?

Answers to all of these questions are important and the answers to many of them are essential.

The ADO’s by-laws (Article II, Section 2) state: The objectives and purposes of the ADO shall be in accordance with and not contrary to the Internal Revenue Code and other applicable laws of the United States.  For a long time the ADO has been operating inconsistent with its own rules, and the law.  People in governing roles knew.

Of course, none of this comes as a surprise to the ADO’s new President, David Hascup.  He’s the real deal.  He’s honest.  And pretty much to a tee he has the respect and confidence of literally every single person who has communicated with me since I began to ask questions.  Dozens of people have been in contact – including past ADO presidents and other former board members, Area Managers and Regional Directors, top players, and others.  Thanks to all of you for your input (and to many of you – for your fact-checking and corroboration).

The stunner, to me, is that some people have been deafeningly quiet.  This can’t help but to give one pause.

I am sure Hascup is also aware that…

  • Rumors are rampant of lawsuits by and against players, missing funds (of up to $120,000) and more.
  • People are asking what has become of the Double Eagle magazine, which according to the by-laws and as already noted is to include an annual report on finances.
  • People are perplexed as to what sense it makes to retain the ADO national office, pretty much out of sight, in Anaheim, California. ADO officers have shown up on occasion, unannounced, to find the doors locked (even though someone is paid to run operations from it).

In light of all of this, and more, and again, as past presidents (and other officers) mysteriously remained silent for years (and for the most part still do, at least publically) allowing speculation to spread and whispers to become shouts,  it is to Hascup’s considerable credit and darts advantage that he has had the courage to speak out.  He has calmed, at least for the moment, concerns by some that the ADO is bankrupt and about to fold.

Hascup’s June 19th statement and related information (reprinted in part below) posted at the ADO website (http://www.adodarts.com/category/ado_news) is a much welcomed and very positive development…

There have been lots of discussions on social media outlets and emails about the status of the American Darts Organization (ADO).  There have also been rumors that ADO and the American Darts Organization Memorial Scholarship Fund will be declaring bankruptcy and folding. These rumors are not true.  I want to give all of our members some facts about the financial/corporate status of the ADO.  I understand the ball was dropped in several areas.  I am not looking to point fingers but to solve the issues and be sure this does not happen again in the future.  As president of the ADO, I want to be open and honest to all its members.  I will continue to do whatever is needed to solve all the issues and to help make the ADO grow.

The future is tomorrow and that, I feel, is in capable hands with Hascup.  He’s taking steps to bring confidence and trust to the organization (I intentionally do not say “back” to the organization – confidence and trust have been missing for years).  He has a long haul ahead.

But the past can be instructive.  What Hascup inherited is not new to the organization.  He is simply beginning to clean up what was bred from the beginning.  Although revised a handful of times, the ADO by-laws today are pretty much as they were when first adopted in 1975.

Way back in the early 1990s, the ADO was involved in a major trademark lawsuit.  At the time and prior, just as has been found to be the case more recently, the ADO was not filing the required legal documents.  Reportedly, such was also the case for Triple Crown Promotions, the company owned by the ADO president at the time, Tom Fleetwood (and his wife Della, who was also the ADO’s treasurer – a massive conflict of interest by any definition).  The matter was settled out of court but cost both sides heavily.

As respected, deservedly so, as the Fleetwoods were for all they did for darts, they set up the ADO such that it was fertile ground for the sort of problems that still exist all these years later.  The Fleetwoods ruled – they were not to be crossed.  The books were held close.  I am not saying they did anything unethical or criminal.  I am saying they built an organization that was ideal for anyone inclined and smart enough to take advantage.  The opportunity to take advantage has been there since the start.

The ADO office is located in one of the highest rent counties in the country (Orange County is one of the top 75 wealthiest counties of the more than 3,000 in America).  Officially there is only one person on the ADO payroll.  But tongues have wagged and wondered in private for a long time as to whether a relative of that person is also employed (or at least being paid) along with a couple of friends.  One person reports dropping into the ADO office to find young children – the appearance being that a small day care center was being operated.

Meanwhile, the phone is rarely answered and messages are frequently not returned.  Emails are not responded to in a timely manner, if at all.  Mail goes unanswered.  The incompetence is staggering.

For years, there has been a sense of secrecy emanating from Anaheim.  Tongue-in-cheek, but not entirely, some have pondered whether the Fleetwoods “willed” the organization to the long-time Director of Operations/Office Manager. In fairness, others maintain this person has been the “glue that has held the organization together” – yet, at least two recent ADO presidents have attempted to remove this individual but been thwarted.

Much of the operation runs on paper, not digitally.  Indeed it was Hascup who finally brought the ADO website into the modern age.

This stuff isn’t new.  It’s part of the history.  But it’s also the reality of the present.

David Hascup needs the support of every member to be successful.  He needs a board he can trust – a board that consists of fresh thinkers and workers who are in no way one of those who knew about the problems and did nothing to force the needed corrections.

I submit that the right thing to do – the absolutely essential action, for the good of darts – is for each current board member and every Area and Regional Director to offer their resignation to Hascup forthwith.  Let Hascup accept or decline but enable him to surround himself with people who are dependable, trustworthy and wholly committed to helping him fix and build an ADO the membership can have confidence in.

I submit that the off-the-beaten-path and essentially unaccountable and incompetently-run Anaheim office should be closed (and eventually relocated to a more accessible and easily monitored location) and the Director of Operations/Office Manager position be eliminated.

I submit that the position of Executive Director (provided for in the by-laws – Article IX, Section 11) be filled by someone with strong organizational management and business experience.

I submit that the ADO’s by-laws absolutely MUST be revised to eliminate self-perpetuating incompetence, or worse.  Specifically, Article XI, Section 4 (The candidates for ADO Executive Office positions shall be limited to the incumbent/past Executive Officers, Area Managers, National Youth Manager, and Regional Director…) must be struck dead.  All positions must be open to the entire membership.  The clubhouse of the Good Old Boys must be burned to the ground.

Finally, I submit, that every question raised above – in particular, but not limited to, those relating to financial issues – should be answered as openly and honestly as Hascup addressed some issues in his June 19th statement.

With Hascup at the helm there is hope for the ADO to survive and thrive.  But answers to the questions raised here are needed – the membership deserves to know.

For Hascup to truly have a chance at success – for the ADO to have a legitimate chance to shine and represent its members the way its members should expect and deserve – key systemic changes are critical.

Those who have been blocking David Hascup’s efforts (and who reportedly blocked the efforts of other recent ADO presidents) must do the right thing for darts.  Now.

From the Field,

Dartoid

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Dartoid
Author of the column that since 1995 has been featured by Bull’s Eye News, the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) Double Eagle and numerous other darts publications and websites around the globe.