ARRL Board’s Weird Censure of N6AA. Why? (RE: Code of Conduct, as seen on HamRadioNow)

I was a guest on the HamRadioNow “hamcast” EP 371 about the ARRL Code of Conduct issue you may or may not have been aware of. Gary, Rich, Dan, David and I spoke on the facts, the background, the parallels and history of interclub drama, and speculated on the reasoning behind and future of the ARRL about this interesting predicament.

Note: this is politically charged issue, and if you believe ham radio has no place for politics, you can skip this one…or scroll directly to the comments without reading to give us a piece of your mind about how you’re going to quit the ARRL, that’s okay too because it gives clout to my conjecture.

Basically, Dick Norton (N6AA, ARRL Southwestern Division Director) brought up the ARRL Board Code of Conduct (aka. The ARRL Policy on Board Governance and Conduct of Members of the Board of Directors and Vice Directors) in a membership forum at this year’s Visalia DX Convention. This made the members unhappy, with some expressing displeasure, some storming out in anger, but without any pro or con discussion from Dick himself. In other words, he brought the already-public Code of Conduct to light as a matter-of-public-fact, without judgement from himself, following the directives per the code of conduct.

Yet the ARRL censured him for this action. He did nothing wrong per the Code of Conduct as read, but the board seems to really not like it when you try to talk about their inside activities on the outside, resulting in the censure. Nobody seems to grok, as the league’s activities are becoming increasingly obscure in a world were transparency is in dire scarcity.

So that’s weird. And probably not the best thing for a membership-centered group. I don’t agree with it, you probably don’t either, and if you don’t there’s one thing we need to get straight is that…


There are too many single-issue quitters when it comes to club drama, from the small-town club all the way to the ARRL, in that the only way they think to express disagreement is to just stop being a member. This not only hurts the club, it hurts your only FCC representative, it hurts the biggest ham radio magazine, it hurts the scholarship foundation, the publication business, the emergency communications support, the teachers and educators , and all the countless other services the ARRL provides.

Better yet this is a reason to get one if you don’t like it, because it is a member-driven club. Without members, there’s nobody to vote, and soon you’ll be represented by a clique of power-hungry old geezers that have nobody’s best interest in mind. Worse yet, the ARRL could splinter, which would be a massive blow to the governmental representation and public image of the hobby.

Don’t let that happen. If you want change, become a member, stay a member, and vote for directors that you believe in. Better yet, run for board. Or campaign for a candidate you like. Go public with your discontent. But always, stay a member.

I guarantee one of you will comment “Welp, another reason you shouldn’t join the ARRL. Revoking my membership immediately!” anyway. Ugh.


Now, why is this code of conduct thing a thing? It’s a thing because it’s showing us that the ARRL has something to hide, which is dissonant from our perception of what a not-for-profit corporation should be.

There are good reasons to prohibit Boards and Committees from talking publicly about inside work, but that’s relegated to the private-sector, corporate world, where proprietary information is a protected trade secret. But what trade secrets does the ARRL have? They are a non-profit amateur radio club.

I feel as if they’re hiding infighting and debate from the public eye to save face and seem like a cohesive, synergistic board of directors (even though we’re seeing they’re having a case of the weeble-wobbles) but also perhaps it’s in their best interest (i.e. the members best interest) to keeping the latest and greatest operating events (like NASA on the Air), QST rebrandings, newest publications, which specific part of amateur radio they’re focusing on for that year, etc. from reaching the public before release…which I think is silly (because who are they competing with, CQ magazine?!?), but is that valid? Or maybe they want to keep secret the political underpinnings of the Membership/ARRL/FCC relationship? I feel like something’s missing here, but since we’ve got nobody from the ARRL providing any insight, and the organization as a whole touting censuring the very mention of the Code, and promoting secrecy throughout it, we’re left to speculation like this, and that’s just plain gross.

You can read more about this at Dan KB6NU’s blog, and in  ARRL: Circling the Wagons?, an editorial by Rich Moseson, W2VU in the next edition of CQ magazine (which is shown in the HRN show).

Where are they expecting this sketchballs censure of N6AA to go? Did they think it would cause such a fuss? Are they trying to oust N6AA from the board? Why is there a gag order in the first place?!

In the show we talked about one possible reason, being that the ARRL Board doesn’t approve of N6AA providing insight into the board’s activities, so when he runs again in the future, the censure will go against his record, causing him to be ineligible due to arbitrary “ethics concerns,” which has happened in the past, as discussed on the show. We believe this might be a sign of an unhealthy, cliquey board at the ARRL, and that should most definitely change.

How do we change it?


No. Don’t be that guy, because that guy is a part of the problem. Membership is down, so naturally non-elections and silly politics will continue to form with explosive force due to the passionate but decisive, and sometimes powerful and influential nature of the membership core – the few passionate souls left behind after the rest of the membership quit the ARRL. It’s like a pH neutral chemical solution, slowly evaporating to reveal a corrosive concentration of acidic goo, only dissolved by more solvent – more members. I think it’s number one critical need is more members, but unfortunately the ARRL seems to be forgetting…or ignoring that.

Hopefully these events, and the actions we’re taking to bring it to light are starting to make a change for the better.

But what can you do? You, a non-ARRL member, can get a membership. And as an ARRL member, you can now vote.

These five directors all voted for the censure, and also happen be up for re-election in 2018:

  • Kermit Carlson W9XA (Central Division, member of the now-infamous Ethics & Elections Committee and maker of the censure motion)
  • Mike Lisenco N2YBB (Hudson Division, member of the Executive Committee and the one who seconded the censure motion)
  • Tom Frenaye K1KI (New England Division and member of  the Ethics and Elections Committee)
  • Jim Pace K7CEX (Northwestern Division and member of the Ethics & Elections Committee)
  • Jim Boehner N2ZZ (Roanoke Division).

 All of the foregoing voted in favor of adopting the Code and all of them voted to censure Dick.  Ultimately, the decision as to whether to retain or replace these five will be up to you, in your respective division.

We’ll be back before the ballots are sent out to revisit this topic, and hopefully this exposure will be the catalyst for a new brew of directors.

You can watch/hear the show at these links:

If you have iOS, I recommend downloading Overcast and using that to listen to Gary’s shows at 2x speed…it might take a while to get used to the speed, but it makes 2 hours go by a whole lot faster. Other apps have speed increasing features but Overcast is by far the best sounding.

If that was an ad, I’d tell you. I just really like Overcast.

So yea. Go vote for better directors. Stay a member to support the ARRL’s contributions to the hobby. Don’t be a quitter.

And if you’re a director, president, CEO, or other ARRL higher up, please talk to us, the membership, openly and publicly. Maybe lets see something in next QST’s Letter to the Members to give us a clue about WTF is going on in Newington.