R.E. Report – September 2011 – Part 2

LAS VEGAS, NV (NCR-SCCA) – The first is from Wayne Quick, who serves on the NCR Board as a Member-at-Large:

I arrived at the Convention early Thursday afternoon.  There were no sessions I could make until the Annual Meeting and Town Hall, at 4:00pm. After about 15 minutes, I left and went to visit the Vendors who support the Club all year and provide the food and drinks at the breaks and the social hour each evening.  There is a good deal of information to be gained there.  Friday, Ron and I were in Stewards Workshops all day.  I was in Team 1.  A review of that follows.  The purpose was to make the Rules and Stewards actions predictable across the entire Club.  A driver/participant should be treated the same, no matter where he or she races.  We are striving to make a level playing field for everyone.  Almost all of this can be found in the GCR.

Team #1 was asked to review SOM Court Procedures with the intent of identifying the best practices and procedures for use by Stewards of the Meeting (SOM) for all SCCA Club Racing events.  This report documents the output of the team’s efforts at the Convention sessions where these topics were reviewed.

Members of the team who participated substantively in at least portions of the sessions included:

Dennis Dean, Facilitator
R. David Jones
Bill Blake
John Peterson
Gloria Dickerson
Wayne Quick
Marc Gerstein
Sue Roethel
Gene Kern
Laurie Sheppard
K.P. Jones
John Sheridan

The team was first asked to review a set of postulated “best practices”, which form the underpinnings of a properly conducted SOM hearing.  The following best practices were agreed to by all members of the team, with only one modification being made to the originally posed list.

SOM Hearing Basic Best Practices

  1. Per GCR 5.1.1, a SOM court will have at least two licensed stewards, including the Chairman.
  2. The Chairman is responsible for managing the SOM court, including scheduling witnesses, making proper notifications and reaching decisions that are as unanimous as possible. The Chairman also manages the witnesses during testimony, assuring that each one has the opportunity to completely testify and to be questioned by all SOMs.
  3. The Chairman is also responsible for maintaining the privacy of the hearing, both in the main hearing area and on field trips.
  4. The Chairman normally will be the sole Steward who delivers decisions to the parties.
  5. No member will opine or speculate on the decision until all witnesses have been heard.
  6. All statements by the SOM about the parties will be respectful.
  7. All members, including SITs will have an equal voice in the hearing and decision. Each will have an opportunity to ask questions of each witness.
  8. Each SOM must determine if he/she has the perception of a conflict of interest and recuse if there is.

The team was also asked to review a series of questions which addressed additional potential best practices.  These questions, along with the consensus of the team, are addressed below.

1.  Who must attend the proceedings?

a. All voting members of the court hearing this case must be present for all interviews.

b. Only parties to all interviews may participate in the deliberations or decision process.

c. On rare occasions observers may be present, but only with the consent of the Chairman. There was significant discussion amongst the team as to whether or not the Protestor or person protested should have “veto rights” over the presence of an observer at the hearing.  A clear consensus was not established.  The team suggests that the Chairman carefully consider any objection to the presence of an observer by either the Protestor or the person protested to ensure that the privacy of the parties to the hearing is carefully protected.

2.  In what order does the court conduct interviews? The following is the recommended order, although unusual conditions may dictate a variation:

a. Protestor

b. Person protested

c. Other witnesses in most appropriate order for the expeditious conduct of the hearing.

3. Who may see evidence presented to the SOM, prior to transfer to the National Office? Note that each party has access to the other’s evidence. This may require recalling the protestor in order that he may hear the protestee’s evidence and rebut as appropriate. (This question is for evidence in general. There would be some variance in the case of mechanical Protests where the written results of the tech inspection would be made available to the Protestor, but not the inspection itself.)

a. Protestor

b. Person protested

c. All members of the court

4. What evidence may be shared?

a. Physical evidence (e.g. videos, photos, etc.) [It is specifically noted that parts obtained as the result of a mechanical protest may not be shared with a Protestor who is not acting as an official of the event.]

b. Event records (e.g. Race Control log, T&S records, etc.)

c. While summaries of witness statements may be shared with the parties to the action, the actual witness statements from other parties/witnesses may NOT be shared.

5. If only “Parties” to an action may appeal to the COA, who is a “Party to the action”? Per GCR 8.2, the following are parties to an action.

a. Protestor

b. Person protested

c. Anyone found to have been involved with and possibly responsible for the incident(s) in question.  [This represents the current GCR language.  The team recommends consideration of a change to the GCR to reword c. to, “Anyone found to have been involved with OR possibly responsible for the incident(s) in question.”  The current wording is felt to be too restrictive.] 

6. Should minors be treated differently than other parties?

a. Generally, no.  However, if a minor requests the presence of a representative (parent, guardian, or other), the Chairman does have the option to allow such an observer, as long as the representative is not a potential witness.

7. Does the SOM have the authority to compel someone to testify, sign a statement or show evidence (such as video recordings)?  [No.]

a. If a participant refuses to submit evidence in hand, can the SOM compel the person to submit said evidence?  [No.]

b. Can the court seize evidence?  [No.]
 

8. How is the decision delivered?

a. Is it advantageous to repeat the protest/action to the parties?  [Yes.]

b. Is the chairman compelled to tell the parties how the decision was made?  [No, however, the Chairman is encouraged to err on the side of information and summarize the evidence reviewed by the SOM.]

c. If a party becomes defensive, belligerent, or retaliatory, what is the best practice for getting the person to stop? After all, the decision is made. Whatever the party says will not change the decision at this point.  [This is a matter best left to the judgment of the Chairman at the time of the incident.]

9. Can the SOM make a decision against a party unnamed or for an infraction not named in the original action?  [No.]

a. Or, must the court make a decision strictly on the clause referenced in the action?  [Yes.]

b. Can the SOM make a ruling on a found infraction, such as during a tear down or within a video submitted as evidence, even if it is not mentioned on the original action? [No.]

10. Although behavior or something that renders a competition car non-compliant might be cause for suspension, when is it preferable to reduce the penalty to probation (if ever)?

a. Rental car scenario.

b. Positive attitude during a hearing.

11. When setting probation parameters, what unit is appropriate?

a. [The consensus of the team was that an event weekend was the most common and most practical probation unit, although some thought sanctions to be appropriate.  It is very hard to standardize such a penalty, but the ultimate goal should be to get the attention of the driver being penalized by the type and amount of the penalty adjudged.]

In addition to the above, the following additional best practices were affirmed by consensus of the team during the discussions.

1. Efforts should be taken to make SOM hearings less intimidating.

2. SOMs should remember at all times that protested parties are innocent until adjudged guilty.

3. An emphasis on confidentiality should permeate the hearing.

4. 3-5 voting SOMs should be the goal in making assignments.

5. A Chairman cannot overrule the majority of the voting SOMs.

A summary of all agreed upon best practices are aggregated below.

SOM Hearing Best Practices

  1. Per GCR 5.1.1, a SOM court will have at least two licensed stewards, including the Chairman.
  2. The Chairman is responsible for managing the SOM court, including scheduling witnesses, making proper notifications, and reaching decisions that are as unanimous as possible. The Chairman also manages the witnesses during testimony, assuring that each one has the opportunity to completely testify and to be questioned by all SOMs.
  3. The Chairman is also responsible for maintaining the privacy of the hearing, both in the main hearing area and on field trips.
  4. The Chairman normally will be the sole steward that delivers decisions to the parties.
  5. No member will opine or speculate on the decision until all witnesses have been heard.
  6. All statements by the SOM about the parties will be respectful.
  7. All members, including SITs will have an equal voice in the hearing and decision. Each will have an opportunity to ask questions of each witness.
  8. Each SOM must determine if he/she has the perception of a conflict of interest and recuse if there is.
  9. Efforts should be taken to make SOM hearings less intimidating.
  10. SOMs should remember at all times that protested parties are innocent until adjudged guilty.
  11. An emphasis on confidentiality should permeate the hearing.
  12. 3-5 voting SOMs should be the goal in making assignments.
  13. A Chairman cannot overrule the majority of the voting SOMs.
  14. Proceedings must be attended by all voting members of the court hearing this case.  Only parties to all interviews may participate in the deliberations or decision process.
  15. On rare occasions observers may be present, but only with the consent of the Chairman.  However, the Chairman should carefully consider any objection to the presence of an observer by either the Protestor or Protested Party to ensure that privacy of the parties to the hearing is carefully protected.
  16. Hearings should hear from the Protestor, followed by the Protested Party, and lastly by other witnesses in the most appropriate order for the expeditious conduct of the hearing.
  17. Evidence presented to the SOM, prior to transfer to the National Office, can only be seen by the Protestor, Protested Party and all members of the court.
  18. Physical evidence (e.g. videos, photos, etc.) can generally be shared with all parties, however, it is specifically noted that parts obtained as the result of a mechanical protest may not be shared with a Protestor who is not acting as an official of the event.
  19. Event records (e.g. Race Control log, T&S records, etc.) can be shared with all parties.
  20. While summaries of witness statements may be shared with all parties to the action, the actual witness statements from other parties/witnesses may NOT be shared.
  21. Per GCR 8.2, parties to an action are the Protestor, the Protested Party, and anyone found to have been involved with and possibly responsible for the incident(s) in question.  
  22. Minors should generally not be treated differently than other parties.  However, if a minor requests the presence of a representative (parent, guardian, or other), the Chairman does have the option to allow such an observer, as long as the representative is not a potential witness.
  23. The SOM does not have the authority to compel someone to testify, sign a statement, or show evidence (such as video recordings).
  24. The SOM cannot compel a person to submit said evidence.
  25. The SOM cannot seize evidence.
  26. When delivering the decision in a hearing, it is advantageous to repeat the protest/action to the parties.
  27. The Chairman is not compelled to tell the parties how a decision was made, however, the Chairman is encouraged to err on the side of information and summarize the evidence reviewed by the SOM.
  28. The SOM cannot make a decision against a party unnamed or for an infraction not named in the original action.
  29. The SOM must make a decision strictly on the clause referenced in the action.
  30. The SOM cannot make a ruling on a found infraction, such as during a tear down or within a video submitted as evidence, if it is not mentioned on the original action.
  31. Although behavior or something that renders a competition car non-compliant might be cause for suspension, in some scenarios (rental car, etc.) it may be preferable to reduce the penalty to probation.
  32. When setting probation parameters, the event weekend is the most commonly used “unit.”

Saturday afternoon, I was able to attend the Combining Events program. What follows is a short list of positives and negatives Regions have experienced. The West Coast has already had some of these events and I believe Atlanta is trying to move forward with one. The rationale is that this is supposed to help smaller regions increase car counts. Some regions have a hard time drawing a full field of Regional cars on a weekend and the same problem with National cars later. If they can combine both on the same weekend, it will boost car count.

Some of the problems suggested are the skill level of Regional drivers sharing the same track time with National drivers. Potential speed differences less say as in Regional SM and National SM. Some Regions feel this may present a problem.

I have other notes about getting and keeping volunteers and drivers. I don’t have the name of the session. Some of the suggestions thrown around were:

  1. For the Region or Club to put members photo’s on Facebook or the web page.
  2. This works particularly well for race winners or the entire podium.
  3. National sent the Res the verbiage needed to obtain releases from folks involved for photos.
  4. People love to be recognized for their work. This is a cheap way to do it.
  5. When we get a new member, have someone (James?) contact them to get a short bio and photo. Maybe at the track at their work station.
  6. More personal contact, call new members, or old ones, and ask them to volunteer to work where needed. Some people just need a nudge.
  7. Worker Ambassador for new workers, tours of the track, teach new skills, put in new positions of responsibility. Just show them where things are and how things get done.
  8. If a worker works two days, he gets credits he can trade for free or reduced PDX, TT.
  9. Place on first page of web site for public to sign up for email blast.

Saturday ended with the Awards & Hall of Fame Banquet.  A good time was had by all!

Thanks to those who provided the training materials and study guide for the Steward’s meeting in Vegas.

Respectfully submitted,
Wayne Quick
Member-at-Large