From Paul Hayes, Chair, COPA Board of Directors
A message from the secretary of a former COPA Flight was recently sent to the COPA Board but also distributed more widely. The message does not present an accurate picture of the reasons behind the Board’s decision to dismiss one of its Directors in 2013.
Kevin Psutka, President and CEO, responded (see below) with facts concerning COPA staff’s involvement in the issues cited by the former COPA Flight and your Board fully supports his presentation of the facts.
The following is my response that was sent to the secretary:
“I am responding to your letter to me and Kevin Psutka concerning the Ontario Seaplane Association's decision to disassociate from COPA.
I released a statement in the August 2013 newspaper providing details that could be publicly released. As some who have Board experience will appreciate, one of the key components of a successful Board is its ability to keep certain discussions within the Board, primarily to protect the Association and the individuals involved. This confidentiality also encourages free and open discussion within the Board. Consequently, I will not provide any more detail about the reasons for dismissing Mr. Ronan than what was provided in August 2013.
Another key component of a successful Board and consequently a successful Association is Board solidarity. Once a decision is made, Board members have a duty to uphold that decision. If a Board member continues to disagree, he/she has the option of leaving the Board but he/she does not have the option of working in the public contrary to the Board decision.
When Board members step away from the above key components of a successful Board, action must be taken to protect the Association. The decision was not taken lightly. The Board gave Mr. Ronan plenty of opportunity to provide details to back his position on our insurance program and the Board’s decision regarding support for GA at the Billy Bishop airport. When he finally responded, the Board found his explanation to be seriously lacking. The Board decided that it would be in the best interests of COPA’s members to ask Mr. Ronan to resign, and when he would not do so, the Board decided to dismiss Mr. Ronan rather than permit him to complete his term of office.
There have been concerns expressed about the method used to dismiss Mr. Ronan. The Board found that our bylaws did not adequately address this situation because, frankly, we did not anticipate that Board members would ever behave in the manner that Mr. Ronan did. The Board has agreed on an amendment to address this shortcoming but it could not be enacted until it is ratified at an Annual General Meeting. Following legal advice, the Board chose the only route available to them, which was to not renew Mr. Ronan’s COPA membership.”
You will find the revised bylaw and explanation on our web site. It is very important that every member takes the time to make sure your voice is heard when this comes before the AGM.
In the February and subsequent COPA Flight newspapers is an AGM announcement and proxy form. If you are not able to attend the AGM in Peterborough at 10:30 a.m. on 21 June 2014, please complete the proxy form to assign your vote to someone who will be there, scan and email to firstname.lastname@example.org , fax to 613-236-8646 or mail to COPA HQ at 71 Bank St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5N2. In order for your proxy to be valid, your membership should be current as of the date of the AGM, the proxy must contain your signature and COPA HQ must receive the proxy by 13 June so that it can be verified.
You can also find the AGM announcement and proxy form here. Your proxy will be employed for ratification of the bylaw amendment as well as the conduct of other AGM business as listed in the AGM announcement.
This is an important issue for the future of COPA. I urge everyone to exercise your proxy.
Chair, COPA Board of Directors
From Kevin Psutka,Kevin President and CEO, COPA
To the secretary of the former COPA Flight:
Thank you for the clarification on the status of the Flight. Since this issue is primarily a matter of the Board of Directors, I will limit my comments to those regarding my involvement and my role at COPA. As an employee and not a member of the Board, it would not be appropriate for me to comment about matters of the Board. The Chair will respond on its behalf.
I want to ensure that you have both articles that were published that are related to the dismissed Director. One from the Chair of the Board summarizes the reasons for the Board's carefully considered decision to take action and the other explains the relationship between the Board and the CEO and staff.
I am sad to see the group disassociate itself with COPA, whose strength is in the number of members. The group's access to support from COPA HQ and insurance coverage has ended but more important is the loss of solidarity. You raised the situation at Billy Bishop airport as one of the issues and I would like to point out that as a result of the decision to disassociate, both COPA and the Ontario Seaplane Pilots Association will likely be less effective at resolving seaplane issues there. Airport management can discount anything we say by pointing to our relationship and then say "why should we pay attention to either of you?"
Regarding the two main issues you raised:
1. Mr. Ronan's insurance issues were not ignored. On the contrary, when specific cases were brought to COPA staff's attention we worked with our new broker and they in turn with the new underwriter to, first of all, get the other side of the story and then to make corrections. As with any new program and relationship, there are growing pains, but when the big picture is considered, in terms of number of policies, successful handling of claims, substantial decline in complaints from members and ultimately achieving acceptable loss ratios, the program is a success. COPA staff continues to carefully consider all issues brought to our attention, working with our broker to investigate, resolve and explain this to the complainer and others if necessary. COPA staff explained to both Mr. Ronan and to the Board the complete information surrounding the issues brought forward by Mr. Ronan. I would like to point out that, in addition to staff and broker working to address Mr. Ronan's concerns about the cases he cited, Mr. Ronan was also provided the opportunity to work directly with our broker to discuss and resolve his issues with our program.
Our aviation insurance program is successful and perceived to be valuable to the point that COPA was approached by the largest underwriter in this sector of the business to get involved. There were many positive reasons for making the move, including access to the insurance experience of AOPA (see our press release), and an explanation in support of the Board's decision to accept their offer is provided here. The program was reviewed by the Board at a recent Board meeting and their decision was to continue, including our relationship with the new underwriter AIG.
2. The situation at Billy Bishop airport is not good for GA, especially with Porter's expansion plan. After examining the issues, the Board decided to support the Toronto Island Pilots Association (COPA Flight 32) to take a legal approach since all non-legal efforts had failed to move airport management to build, rather than discourage GA. The Board directed me to be the point of contact for COPA on the issue, including dealing with airport management and others, as well as to support TIPA's efforts. The Board has reviewed the issue at each of their meetings and their direction to me remains the same. The legal approach remains in place and will run its course with our goal to impress upon airport management that GA has a continuing role to play and indeed must be there, according to the Tripartite agreement. Any interference or confusion by conflicting points of view would not be in GA's best interest in resolving this matter. In addition to legal pressure, I have maintained contact with management, most recently resulting in a follow-up letter to a discussion on the airport master plan. COPA has been pushing for a plan for several years and we are finally making progress. Now it is a matter of influencing the words in the plan so that GA is accommodated to an appropriate extent.
I urge your group to consider the need for a collective voice for our sector of aviation and that you would reconsider the decision to disassociate with COPA.
President and CEO