Chris Millard's story on the USGA under Walter Driver marks the first time a publication of any kind has addressed the USGA presidential jet. Millard considers it in the context of USGA staff outrage over benefit cuts and Driver's "change agent" style:
...in February USGA staff was notified of significant cuts to their medical plan. Further, the Educational Assistance Program, a prized USGA benefit, which since 1997 has assisted Golf House employees with the cost of a child's college tuition, would be phased out.
Compounding the issue--and confounding staffers--were the following: First, only weeks prior to the revelation that benefits would be cut, the USGA had signed two new deep-pocketed corporate sponsors. Second, less than a year before rumors of the cuts reached Golf House staff, news media had revealed that the USGA had acquired time on a private jet for use by the president and the executive committee.
Uh guys, it was here. Quibbling, I know. Continue...
On Feb. 6 USGA staffers were advised of the benefit cuts via memo (a copy of which was obtained by Golf World). The cuts, their timing and the manner in which they were presented stunned and angered employees. "The way it was couched to us, they were basically taking something away without really telling [us] what was going to happen," says one USGA veteran with college-aged children. "A lot of people here felt that wasn't fair."
In an unusual move, Driver flew to Far Hills to quell concerns. "The staff had not been given what I call the ‘three-legged stool,' and I wanted to explain to them the process," says Driver.Please, would some inkslinger at Oakmont please ask Driver to flesh out that metaphor.
Outside observers were flabbergasted. "Walter Driver [saying] in his address we've made changes to help us improve our potential for getting quality staffers in the future--when in fact they were cutting benefits--was the ultimate corporate act: Say one thing and do another," says Shackelford, who frequently posts provocative and acerbic comment on his blog. "For me that was the all-time low, really."
Oh, sorry. Believe it or not, I am building to a point here...
Before Driver took over, longstanding USGA tradition called for executive committee members to pay their own travel expenses for association business. Once disclosed, the idea of a USGA-funded private jet for executive committee use sent shockwaves through a century-old volunteer ethos. One former president who asked not to be identified says, "I have been away from the institution for a long time. Priorities and demands change. For example, a jet for executive-committee use would have been unheard of in my time."
Driver has been demonized as the procurer and chief beneficiary of the plane when, in fact, he inherited the lease from Fred Ridley's presidency. The deal with Citation Shares was made, ironically, at the suggestion of the past presidents. Driver is unruffled by the controversy. He considers the plane a tool, one that has allowed him to expand his USGA schedule. "If people don't think it's appropriate," he says, "either I or the next president simply won't do those things."
Those things? Would those be boring speeches that really do nothing to impact any lives? Okay, sometimes I am acerbic.
Anyway, here's my question. If the past president's pushed this jet on Ridley and Driver (joined at the hip, something Millard left out), and Driver truly cared about the future health (no pun) of the USGA and its staff, wouldn't he have said "no thanks, save the hundreds of thousands of dollars you'll lavish on me with this jet for a better cause."
Now, I know it's from page 291 of the CEO playbook to blame the board for those excessive stock options and perks while your workers are taking pay and benefit cuts, but just an FYI for Walter Driver, there are still some CEO's who actually commit acts of charity for the good of the team:
[Gerald] Grinstein, who has led the USA's No. 3 airline since January 2004, said he wants Delta instead to invest what he would have gotten in post-bankruptcy bonuses, to be used for scholarships and emergency hardship assistance for Delta employees, families and retirees. Under a post-bankruptcy compensation plan unveiled Monday, Grinstein could have been expected to net about $10 million, including such bonuses, over about three years.
Now that's my kind of "change agent."