At a Special Meeting of the Polish Falcons of America National Board of Directors held on Friday, May 29, 2020, the Board voted unanimously to hold a virtual Regular Convention on Saturday, November 21, 2020, and a Special Convention in July 2021 in New Britain, Conn. Following is a statement from PFA National President Timothy L. Kuzma that describes the details of the Board’s decision and the plan for the Conventions.
Ever since we announced that the 2020 National Convention was postponed almost two months ago, the Officers, Directors and Staff have been working continuously on a new plan for the Convention. We are in unchartered waters and have never had to deal with a situation like this. To the credit of everyone involved, we have worked our way through a maze of statutory, regulatory and our own Constitutional issues to come up with a plan that we strongly believe is the best possible solution given the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
Our original plan was to simply wait one year and hold the Convention in 2021 in New Britain, Conn., the same way we were going to do it this year. As we learned, however, this solution was not possible. Primarily, the Fraternal Code in Pennsylvania (our state of domicile and our primary regulatory authority) mandates a Convention must be held every four years. We discussed via email and telephone with representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance (DOI) and requested a waiver or exemption from this rule due to the pandemic. In short, the DOI denied the request saying that they did not have the authority to waive state laws, amongst other equally valid reasons. The DOI strongly recommended that we hold a virtual Convention this year to comply with the statutory requirements. It could have been possible to still do the Convention next year, but it would place an enormously dangerous and unacceptable risk on the organization. Our Constitution has a similar requirement, but we believed there was some leeway there, especially if the DOI would grant a waiver.
That leaves us with two choices for holding a Convention to satisfy the requirements of the Fraternal Code, and to provide for a meeting that is safe for all attendees. These options are:
- Conduct an in-person regular Convention later this year in New Britain, Conn., as we were planning to do in July.
- Conduct a virtual regular Convention later this year to be in compliance with all statutory and regulatory requirements, and we conduct a Special Convention in July 2021.
After much deliberation, the Board has come to the conclusion that Option 2 is the best option for Polish Falcons of America.
At this point, allow me to give me a broad overview as to how we plan to divide which issues/topics will be discussed and resolved at each of these Conventions. Please note, at this point, we are not prepared to discuss the logistical challenges of conducting a virtual Convention. Our preliminary research shows that it is absolutely possible and other organizations (not just fraternals) are using technology to conduct large meetings virtually. We still have a lot of work in front of us, but we have time and I promise that we will do everything in our power to have the best meeting possible. When we determine which meeting platform we are going to use for the Convention, we will do rigorous testing with large groups to work out any glitches. We will also help delegates with information and training, so everyone feels at ease with participating in a remote Convention. We want to make sure that every voice is heard, and each vote counted.
As I mentioned before, the DOI’s primary issue is that a fraternal must hold a Convention every four years, and the primary purpose of that Convention is the election of Officers and Directors. If we waited until 2021 for this election, the current Officers and Directors, could be viewed as not legitimate and not be able to carry out any of their duties and responsibilities in any way. Therefore, the most important issue to take care of at the Regular Convention is the elections.
Of course, there will be other items on the agenda, such as approval of minutes, acceptance of officers and directors’ reports, etc. Again, this is not complete at this point, this is just to give you a high-level look at what we are planning. Even though the meeting will be conducted virtually, we will adhere to as many of our traditional processes as possible.
We did consider whether this Convention could be done in-person later this year. It is possible, but our primary concern is the health and safety of the delegates at the Convention. We don’t know what the situation is going to be in the fall and we have to make decisions now. We have to give Nests and Districts time for their own meetings in advance of the Convention. Our conclusion is that this is the best solution for everyone.
While the main purpose of the Regular Convention is the election of Officers and Directors, the Special Convention will focus on amendments to the Constitution and any other business we did not resolve at the Regular Convention. In addition, there are important fraternal aspects to the Convention that aren’t really possible in a virtual setting. Some of these include the Legion of Honor Conclave, Falconette Commission Luncheon and Technical Committee Meeting.
We also see this Special Convention as an opportunity to provide educational and cultural workshops for the delegates. We want this Convention to be a celebration of the Polish Falcons, the anniversary of the founding of the Legion of Honor, and of fraternalism. We can’t do this in a virtual environment.
We can’t forget about the entire social component of the Convention. In many ways, this is just as important as the business we conduct. We all enjoy meeting our Falcon friends, visiting Nests and just being together again in the true spirit of this great organization. The Special Convention will give us the opportunity to do this once again.
Finally, it is no fault of Nest 88 that we can’t do the Convention as planned in 2020. Members of the Nest have spent much time and resources in planning the Convention and we want to make sure they still have the opportunity to do so. It would be a shame if they were not able to host the Convention for which they have been planning. I am completely confident that Nest 88 will be an outstanding host in 2021.
Our mission now is to work out all the details for both of these Conventions. There is a lot to do as this is something new for all of us. Please watch your email and the website for developments and announcements as we finalize our plans. Please know that we are open to any comments, suggestions, questions, etc., about the Conventions. Don’t hesitate to contact any Officer or Director. I look forward to the challenge. Take care. Stay healthy and safe.
Timothy L. Kuzma
Polish Falcons of America