by Glen I. Voorhees Jr.
Western Field Editor
Marion Hammer’s presidency had many “firsts” which will go down in the history of the NRA.
The most obvious, of course, is the fact she was the first woman to head the 2.8-million membership organization and was thus able to generate a great deal of good publicity for the 127-year-old Association.
Two disquieting memories must, however, be recorded from the end of Hammer’s administration. At her last board meeting there was “blood” spilled on the floor of the meeting. And at the last meeting, she used her aggressive gavel to abrogate some of the rights of the membership. She chose to ignore the members’ vote, cast at the annual members meeting two days earlier, to have the board of directors review the amendments to the certificate of incorporation that were to have been presented to the members at the meeting. It was also her motion that caused the board meeting to be adjourned at the end of the first day.
Let me try to take the meeting events in chronological order. Director Susan Howard opened the meeting with a prayer at 9:07 a.m. on June 8. As is customary, the officers’ reports were passed out in advance of the meeting so the directors could read and digest the reports prior to the meeting. Each of the officers was available to answer any questions generated by the reports.
Secretary Jim Land introduced the new directors and swore them in. (See Gun Week July 1, 1998, page 12 for NRA Board election results.)
Director Sue King presented $10,000 from the Houston Safari Club to ILA Director Tanya Metaksa, and Pierre A. Exander presented Director Sandy Froman with $10,000 from EduCap Inc., for the Scholarship Foundation.
Director Wayne Anthony Ross asked that the resolutions that were not brought up at the members meeting be read to the board of directors. Hammer said that she would not entertain them at that time, that they would be brought up at a later date.
Outgoing Nominating Committee Chairman Herbert A. Lanford Jr., read the report committee. They nominated: Charlton Heston for president; Kayne Robinson for first vice president, and Sandra Froman as second vice president. They also nominated: Wayne LaPierre for executive vice president; Tanya Metaksa as director of ILA; Woody Phillips as treasurer, and Edward J. Land Jr. as secretary.
The new committee nominating committee for the 1999 elections was elected by the board. The new committee members (with the name of the person who nominated them in parentheses) include: Marion Hammer (Ernie Padgette), Jim Reinke (David Bennett), Edie Reynolds (Bill Miller), Bill Miller (Barbara Phillips), Wayne Ross (James Porter), Bob Viden (Manny Fernandez); and non-board members: Mark Harris (Jay Printz), Mike Haas (David Oliver), and Alice Tripp (Sue King).
Among committee reports presented, John C. Sigler, chairman of the finance committee, reported that the NRA finances are in the strongest condition they have been in years. A direct quote from his written report states that, “For the four months ending April 30, 1998, the receipts over expenditures from operations total $5.5 million, which is $5.7 million over the budgeted amount. This favorable variance is comprised of a favorable variance in total net receipts of $1.1 million, which is attributed to strong member contributions and ILA fund-raising efforts, and a lower spending variance of $4.6 million.”
When I asked past Finance Committee Chair Donna Bianchi how she felt about the finance report, she told me, “The committee is following the recommendations that Rick Carone and I implemented over the last few years.” She said she was happy with the report and felt that the NRA was headed in the right direction financially.
One action item that will be of particular interest to many is a new procedure policy that Sigler proposed. It would include several mechanisms many board members have been clamoring for. Among its most important features are: a.) A centralized purchasing division; b.) A Procedure Policy & Procedures manual based on current guidelines and standards of the National Association of Purchasing Management Inc.; c.) Competitive bidding where appropriate; d.) Use of a system for decision making, authorization, and documentation for procurement functions; e.) Continuation of the current requirement for officer approval for contracts over $100,000, and f.) A confidentiality agreement with vendors.
Sigler also asked that the board approve a new investment policy that would enhance reporting procedures to the board and would require closer controls of the Association’s investments. He stated that, “Attached is the proposed Investment Policy which the Finance Committee recommends for adoption. It is the product of several meetings of the Investment Oversight Subcommittee and Treasurer’s Office staff, and has been reviewed by professionals at Smith Barney, First Union, Dean Witter, Morgan Stanley, as well as other investment professionals known to individual members of the subcommittee.” The policy goes into effect as soon as possible. Sigler thanked Woody Phillips and his staff for all their efforts. Sigler is getting a reputation for giving noteworthy and understandable financial reports.
While Hammer still retained the president’s gavel, there was a motion that the resolutions that were presented to the general membership at the annual meeting be referred to committees. Hammer called, “All in favor, say aye.” She then gaveled the motion as carried. Ken Brodbeck, husband of Director Sally Drews Brodbeck, called from the back of the room, “You did not call for the nay votes.” Hammer recognized Brodbeck by asking him if he wanted to address the issue? When he repeated the question, she ruled him out of order. Sally Brodbeck approached a microphone to speak of the issue.
I was listening to her when I heard a loud crash behind me and to my left. I turned and saw Ken Brodbeck being tossed to the ground by an NRA “security guard.” From the time I realized there was a problem and got to the scene of the altercation, it was only a matter of seconds. Ken Brodbeck appeared to be unconscious in a fetal position, clutching his video camera. I stepped between the guard and Brodbeck and observed Brodbeck have what appeared to be a convulsion. The security guard started toward Brodbeck again and I told him, “Don’t touch him.”
He backed off and someone asked if EMS should be called. Several of us answered in the affirmative. Luckily by the time EMS arrived Brodbeck had regained consciousness. He refused medical care, much against advice to the contrary.
When I saw Ken Brodbeck going down, the “guard” was using a choke-hold that can render a person unconscious in seconds. The hold is so severe that many police departments will not allow their officers to use it. I subsequently found out the “guard” took him down because Brodbeck was videotaping his wife. I was told that Brodbeck had politely said he would stop taping if it was the ruling of the president. The “guard” tried to forcibly take the camera from Brodbeck, and when Mr. Brodbeck resisted, protecting his property, he was rendered unconscious.
During the chaos that followed, Jim Land, NRA secretary, came down from the dais and tried to take control of the situation. At the same time, Sally Brodbeck realized that the disturbance at the back of the room involved her husband, and rushed to his side. Land tried to stop her. Her reply was a shocked, “That’s my husband!” Land backed off, but then tried to clear everyone else away, including me. I stayed where I was so the “security guard” could not get to Brodbeck or get his camera.
Once Hammer realized that there was a serious problem, she declared that the board was going into executive session, thus requiring everyone except board members to vacate the room. The executive session didn’t last long.
There are two interesting sidelights not connected to this incident, but perhaps a partial cause for the assault on the husband of a board member. Hammer is the only NRA president that I know of who has felt she needed bodyguards. They are present everywhere she goes and they follow her orders. The security guard who put the choke hold on Brodbeck was one of those body guards. Because of her obsession with security, the security guard who took Brodbeck down at the board meeting may have been over-zealous in his interpretation of her mandates.
While attending the Awards Banquet at the annual meeting in Phoenix, in May of 1995, the woman who was serving my meal saw that I was then a board member and asked, “Why would the president of the NRA require three body guards?” I could only reply with the truth, and said, “I have no idea.”
Amazingly, just before incident, as we were coming back from a coffee break, I related the waitress story to the security guard. He looked at me, chuckled, and said, “It really does seem kind of strange, doesn’t it?”
What really happenered during the Brodbeck-security guard encounter will probably always be disputed. Because of the way the room was arranged, with board members seated most alphabetically, few people had a view of the whole room. Some observers claimed that Brodbeck had been taken to the ground from a seated position by a security guard who had his arm around Brodbeck’s throat. Others, almost immediately after it happened, claimed that Brodbeck fell out of his seat.
Nor was I surprised to hear, after the 11/2-hour lunch break that followed, several officers and members of the board were saying that the whole altercation between the guard and Brodbeck was “staged” by one of the board factions, and that they had expected it would happen. In my mind, Brodbeck was being vilified for defending his rights and his property. One need only ask anyone who was seated near Brodbeck, if the accusations weren’t so ludicrous they would have been laughable.
When Heston took over the president’s gavel, he made a brief acceptance speech. He said that he would not tolerate any disturbances and that he would run a tight ship. He said he was a good administrator and very good at delegating authority. He continued that he had a very busy schedule for the afternoon, dealing with the press, so he was handing the gavel to the very capable first vice president, Kayne Robinson. Heston went on to say, “As an actor and director, I am a good judge of performances, and the one I saw this morning was not a good performance.” There was an audible groan from many of the board members.
Robinson recognized Second Vice President Froman who very humbly thanked the board for helping her through some difficult times in the last couple of years. (She had suffered a personal family loss.) She continued, “When people talk about the NRA Family, I now know what it means.” Froman received standing applause from the board.
Jim Reinke nominated Hammer to the executive council, an honor afforded past presidents. She thanked him for the tribute, but declined because she wants to complete her new three-year term as a director.
Most of the committee reports did not require board action and there were few questions from the board.
Under new business, T.J. Johnston addressed the Brady Bill and the sunset provision. He pointed out that the money the FBI will assess is nothing but another tax. He moved that the board instruct the executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, to file a lawsuit to block the tax. Hammer, now a board member, disagreed and moved that the EVP be instructed to look into the matter. Johnston’s motion failed while the substitute passed.
Robinson then recognized Hammer, who said, “I could not do this while I was president, so I am pleased to move we adjourn.” The motion was carried over loud protests.
For the first time in modern history the board was adjourned after a one-day meeting.
Once again very little was accomplished. Most of the directors were scheduled to stay through Wednesday of that week so they could get the Association’s business accomplished. The hotel and meeting rooms were guaranteed and changing tickets at the last minute is costly. I guess you could say that Hammer, with board approval, gave many of the directors a one- or two-day, all-expenses-paid vacation.