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Thread: Resolution of Complaint against Vice President Olga Mushtaler

  1. #1
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    Default Resolution of Complaint against Vice President Olga Mushtaler

    Hello Heidi,

    The board of the CFC has received your complaint regarding Olga Mushtaler’s actions. A meeting took place to address it.

    Summary of Our Findings:

    Private Initiative: The issue pertained to a private gathering organized by Olga for Chess in the Park, a personal initiative, not directly linked to the CFC or any CFC event. We do not have jurisdiction in this situation.

    No Action Taken: After careful consideration, we have concluded that Olga's actions were in line with what could be expected of a reasonably prudent person in the same situation. Consequently, no action will be taken against her.

    Free Speech Clarification: The claim of suppressing free speech is not valid, as Facebook groups are not platforms for free speech, and administrators can ban users at their discretion.

    In light of these findings, we believe the complaint lacks merit. While we encourage a constructive and respectful dialogue within the community, it is not in the mandate of the CFC to get involved in every situation regarding chess.

    We thank you for reaching out and remain open to all our members and issues they may have concerns with, within the frame of our mandate.

    Best regards,

    Vlad Drkulec
    President, Chairperson of the Board of Directors
    Chess Federation of Canada
    Last edited by Vladimir Drkulec; 12-09-2023 at 02:34 PM.

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    This email was received November 24th, 2023.

    Heidi Gay

    Toronto
    24 November 2023
    Vlad Drkulec, President; Lyle Craver, Secretary; Fred McKim, Treasurer; Victor Plotkin, FIDE
    Representative; Christina Tao, Youth Coordinator, Mark Dutton, Director at Large; Patricia
    Gamliel, Director at Large
    Chess Federation of Canada
    PO Box 85015, Brant Plaza
    Burlington, ON L7R 4K3
    Complaint against Olga Mushtaler, Vice-President, Chess Federation of Canada

    Dear CFC Executive Board:
    I hope this letter finds you well.

    Per my previous correspondence with Vlad Drkulec, the CFC is unwaveringly committed to addressing and eradicating issues and attitudes surrounding sexism, sexual harrassment, and women in chess.
    Therefore, one would hope that CFC executive board members exercise sound judgment
    regarding issues surrounding women in chess and creating a safe environment for women and girls to play and enjoy chess. To this end, I am filing a complaint against Olga Mushtaler, Vice-President of the Federation.

    On 4 November 2023, GM Timur Gareyev was invited to Chess in the Park (CitP). CitP is a casual chess meetup that occurs every weekend in Toronto and is organized by Mushtaler. Meetups are coordinated in a Facebook group, and are attended by both adults and juniors.

    Timur Gareyev has been sanctioned by US Chess for violating Safe Play Guidelines and is still currently serving out his suspension (effective to June 2024) at the time of this writing. This has been covered on chess.com and on Lichess.

    The guest was previously advertised (see Appendix B) by Mushtaler, and after the event, photos were published in the CitP Facebook group. This alone may fall under “b. carrying out any conduct which may be detrimental to the Corporation as determined by the board in its sole discretion;” in the CFC 2014 NFP Continuance document.

    This conduct includes:
    ● Inviting and advertising a guest in advance to a chess group in Canada, which includes
    young girls, with knowledge of his past history of sexual harassment
    ● Failure to be publicly transparent for individuals to make informed decisions
    ● Potentially lying or at the minimum, misrepresenting said transparency. Any attempt at
    transparency might have been made privately, but it clearly failed to reach the whole
    group.

    The following attached screenshots in Appendix C are, to my understanding, the only other mentions of Gareyev in the CitP group. I have also attached screenshots of my conversation with Subject Y, with his permission (Appendix D). Messages not relating to this topic at hand have been redacted for privacy purposes; I am happy to provide access to the originals to prove this if necessary. Y is a mainstay at CitP; he is at CitP nearly every week. The fact that he also asked Olga what Timur’s name was should have also indicated that not everyone present knew of his history like she claims in Appendix A; he also states that had he known beforehand, he would not have attended.

    Personally, though I previously read both the lichess and chess.com articles, I did not make the connection initially when I saw the announcement, but only later when I saw this Chesstalk thread and later, the event photos in the Facebook group. So I brought this up with Mushtaler, and I have attached screenshots of this conversation (Appendix A). This conversation raises a number of serious issues with a member who holds a high ranking position within the CFC.

    These issues are as follows:
    1) Not upholding a higher standard that comes with the responsibility from an executive
    board role with CFC
    There is a severe lack of understanding how her actions and attitude, especially with her role within the CFC, is representative and indicative of why chess is generally not a welcoming space for women and girls. The fact that people deliberately chose to not attend because of his presence should be a clear indicator that Gareyev's presence made it not a welcoming and safe space for all, and she does not seem to understand that.

    2) Lack of acceptance of her failure to provide a safe environment as an organizer
    Her opinion that the presence of numerous men is sufficient to create a safe environment is extremely problematic. Women and girls should not need men for protection and security; besides, men tend to not even notice sexual harassment happening to women around them in my and others' experiences. With that logic, every woman should be perfectly safe at a nightclub. This indicates blatant ignorance and flippant disregard with what constitutes a safe environment to prevent abuse.

    I should also point out that the claim of the presence of 20 men, when she simultaneously claims only 9 people showed up (one of whom was WCM Olena Kucherenko), is also clearly illogical.

    3) Lack of willingness to take responsibility for her own actions
    Her excuse that she was not physically there is invalid. She may not have been physically there as she was ill, but she would have been there as the organizer of the group if she had not been ill. She also compares his appearance at CitP to his appearance at Hart House (HH), a club affiliated with the University of Toronto. HH hosts casual chess on Friday evenings, which is open to all. Gareyev at CitP is not comparable to Gareyev at HH. The HH executive board did not invite Gareyev, nor advertise his appearance at HH in advance. Furthermore, none of the HH board members also hold a significant role with the CFC.

    4) Lack of freedom of speech
    CFC members should be free to voice their opinions without retribution. I was blocked by
    Mushtaler on Facebook shortly after, thereby removing my ability to access CitP events details. I
    have subsequently been removed from the CitP Facebook group without my knowledge and against my will.

    Furthermore, it is important to be open to dialogue and discussion about issues surrounding women in chess. One would hope for any and every CFC board member to welcome further discussion and invite other people, especially women, to share their thoughts and opinions regarding issues and attitudes surrounding safe play, sexism, and sexual harrassment. For an executive board member to block and shut down such conversation is disappointing – it also prevents important change in Canadian chess culture if such conversations are stifled and are unable to take place.

    As a result of her actions, I don't believe she is fit to serve as the Vice-President of the Federation. I appreciate the tireless work she does for the chess community but what kind of message does it send to women and girls in Canada when someone, whose ignorance and actions endangers and ostracizes women in what can already be a difficult environment for women, is a high-ranking representative of Canadian chess?

    I may not be a voting member, but I hope that my voice counts. Addressing and eradicating such harmful attitudes starts at the grassroots level from the ground up and through the example that is set. I don't think it's unreasonable of me to expect CFC board members, of all people, to lead by example to enact the change that we all want to see.

    I would like the Federation to be wholly transparent with the chess community regarding any actions taken as a result of this complaint, whether it be through an email to me or through public communications on ChessCanada and/or ChessTalk. I hope to see action taken by January 31, 2024. If a final decision has not been reached by then, I would like an update to be provided to me by the above date, with a commitment to reach a final decision by a specified future date.

    Best regards,
    Heidi Gay
    National Arbiter, Chess Federation of Canada
    Member, Annex Chess Club
    Last edited by Vladimir Drkulec; 12-06-2023 at 12:20 AM.

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    Default Zoom meeting participants

    Present at the meeting held Tuesday November 28, 2023 were:

    Vladimir Drkulec
    Patricia Gamliel
    Victor Plotkin
    Christina Tao
    Mark Dutton

    The initial complaint arrived on Friday November 24, 2023. I was playing in a tournament in Michigan with no access to phone or internet until late at night.

    I sent the reply from the first post in the thread today shortly before posting it here.

    Last edited by Vladimir Drkulec; 12-05-2023 at 02:27 PM.

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    Dear chess friends,

    I would like to add to this theme by publishing email exchange with CFC President Vladimir Drkulec on this topic. I believe it further clarifies the position of the Board, as well as my personal position on the matter. Everyone reading this can draw their own conclusions. Upon reading the resolution, this was my first email to the CFC President, 05 December 2023, all Board members were in copy:


    Thank you for sharing this Vladimir. Just one question to clarify the Board's position: do I understand it right that the CFC board DID NOT find CFC Vice President Olga Mushtaler's behaviour to host a GM banned by USCF for violations of Safe Play guidelines unethical? This is my understanding from this quote: "we have concluded that Olga's actions were in line with what could be expected of a reasonably prudent person in the same situation."

    Just a couple of excerpts from official texts below for your consideration.

    From the Ethics Code of Canadian Public Sector servants:
    Public servants shall serve the public interest by:
    3.1 Acting at all times with integrity and in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that may not be fully satisfied by simply acting within the law.

    From the FIDE Code of Ethics, 6.26:
    Individuals in positions of trust have a duty d) To act as a role model and ensure demonstration of consistent standards of behaviour.

    Best regards,
    Anna Burtasova


    Vladimir's reply, 05 December 2023:

    It is only unethical if she knows about the issue. She did not have knowledge until shortly before the event. We could not take action against Olga without also taking action against Hart House where Gareyev also visited. The GM invited himself and as far as Olga knew, he was just the world blindfold champion. While I was aware of Gareyev, that was only because I happened upon the page mentioning his suspension on the USCF site when I was looking for information on another situation. It is unlikely that I would have remembered if shown his name as it was not relevant to me at the time. There was no mention of this suspension until the third page of results when I did a search on Gareyev on duckduckgo and even there it was in an article on the St. Louis Chess Club which one might easily miss if he didn't actually go in and read the article.

    Note that FIDE has taken no action against Gareyev as there has been no complaint lodged against him and the USCF has refused to supply details of what he is alleged to have done to FIDE. Gareyev is free to play in FIDE events without any sanctions from FIDE. After many searches it seems to me that he has engaged in inappropriate behaviour involving at least two women but probably there are more. When I asked about the exact nature of his offence there was no answer.

    Olga was sick with Covid on the day that the event occurred which limited her options.

    When she learned of the problem with GM Gareyev she did her best to notify everyone. Only one woman showed up (Elena/Olena) and she had knowledge of the situation. There were no incidents at the event. The complaint was that not everyone knew but in such a situations where there is not a lot of time the main thing is to notify the people (women) who could be targetted by the individual. Olga was home, sick with Covid and not in a position to stop the event. That is my interpretation of the event and the interpretation of the rest of the board.

    The exchanges with Heidi happened after the fact, when it was too late to do anything about the situation as it had come and gone with no notable incident. We would not have even known of this without Heidi raising the issue.

    As Patricia pointed out Olga is not a public servant. The standard for the members of the board is spelled out in the not for profit act and that is the phrase that we have repeated several times and that is comparing her actions to that of a "reasonably prudent person in the same situation". Olga is an unpaid volunteer at the CFC and at Chess in the Park. She is very much an upgrade over the previous VP. We do not have a surplus of volunteers for any position.

    With warm regards,
    Vlad

    My reply, 05 December 2023:

    Thank you for a detailed clarification of your position.

    "It is only unethical if she knows about the issue" - I cannot agree more. And that is exactly why Hart House is a different story because they did not know, whereas Olga did know which is evident from Heidi's screenshots as well as your confirmation above. Instead of taking the matter seriously and canceling the event, she informed some of the members (as you claim). However, as evident from Heidi's screenshots, not every member was informed. I also failed to find such disclaimers on Chess in the Park Facebook page where the event was publicized. Moreover, I met Elena/Olena, who you refer to, at Pub Chess three weeks ago. During our conversation she mentioned Gareyev at CiTP and was genuinely surprised when I informed her of his ban by the USFC and connected issues. She did not know.

    "The main thing is to notify the people (women) who could be targetted by the individual." Honestly, this comment makes me very sad. No, this is not the 'main thing'. Imagine it is YOU who are the possible target. Would it be enough for you to be notified when the person is still invited to events in your country, your city, your neighbourhood? Will you feel like a respected member of the community? 'Yes we know there is a potential abuser we host, but as long as you're not around, it's ok, we're happy to have him' - this is the message that comes across.

    The allegations against Gareyev are very widely known in the chess world after the Lichess article, Breaking the Silence | Blog • lichess.org, of the 10th of August 2023. You can learn about the exact nature of his offence from this piece, if you are interested. Gareyev is indeed not banned by FIDE, but FIDE did not have an EDC case against him as the victims did not raise it with FIDE. And without an EDC case they can't ban anyone. In any case, the lack of clear Safe Play policies and accessible report practices from FIDE's side is not an argument to dismiss the serious matter we have here.

    I salute Olga's efforts on the popularization of chess both as an CFC Board member and at Chess in the Park. Given Olga's credentials I am sure the chess community (me at least) would be quite satisfied if you took the issue seriously, realised the mistake made and issued a public apology so we know we're heard and our safety matters. Unfortunately, lack of any of these outcomes and your replies in support of these choices made by one of the high-positioned board members send a very disturbing message of dismissal and ignoring the valid public concern.

    I think some of the details written here are important for further public discussion and clarification of your position. I would like to publish our email exchange on the forum, if this is ok with you.

    Best regards,
    Anna Burtasova

    At this point WFM Oksana Golubeva's entered the thread:

    Dear Executives,

    I would like to contribute to the ongoing discussion by highlighting that the Chess in the Park club is occasionally visited by children.

    In Olga's absence and the lack of notifications on the club's group, there was a risk that children could attend the event without being informed of potential risks. As the Vice President and a teacher, Olga should have assessed these risks and taken appropriate action. This raises concerns about Olga's competence to represent CFC as vice president and make decisions on behalf of its members. Initially, I believed admitting the mistake would be sufficient, but after further consideration, I question Olga's suitability to remain on the CFC executive board.

    Best regards,
    Oksana Golubeva

    Final reply from Vladimir, 06 December 2023:

    Hello Oksana and Anna,

    As already stated the CFC has reviewed the evidence following Heidi Gay's complaint. Chess in the Park operates independently and is not affiliated with the Chess Federation of Canada. As a board, our role does not extend to adjudicating or micromanaging the private lives and decisions of our directors outside of their duties within the CFC. The removal of a director is a significant decision, necessitating clear evidence of wrongdoing within the context of their duties for the Chess Federation of Canada. In this case, the presented evidence does not meet the required standard for such a consequential action.

    We consider the matter closed.

    Vladimir Drkulec
    President and Chairperson of Board of Directors
    Chess Federation of Canada
    Last edited by Anna Burtasova; 12-06-2023 at 02:42 PM.

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    Good evening!
    Please find below the initial email sent to the Executive Board.

    ———
    Dear Executives,

    We hope this letter finds you well.

    We are writing to express our deep concern and disappointment regarding the recent event hosted by Olga Mushtaler and subsequent escalation with Heidi Gay. The event hosted by Olga featured Timur Garyeev, a person banned for sexual harassment.

    It is disheartening to see the Federation associated with an individual of such questionable character, and it raises serious ethical and reputational concerns.
    Furthermore, we must bring to your attention the inappropriate behavior of Olga towards Heidi who courageously initiated a conversation with Olga. Instead of addressing the matter professionally, Olga engaged in inappropriate conduct and went as far as blocking the concerned individual. This not only reflects poorly on the VP personally but also raises questions about CFC’s commitment to addressing serious issues. It is crucial to recognize that failure to address these concerns promptly may tarnish CFC reputation significantly especially before the upcoming Candidates Tournament.

    As women and chess players, we would urge you to take swift and decisive action to rectify this situation, ensuring that the Federation remains an organization of the highest ethical standards. Failing to do so could have lasting consequences on CFC’s standing within the community and beyond.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter.


    Sincerely,
    Oksana Golubeva, WFM, former CFC Women’s Coordinator
    Anna Burtasova, Woman Grandmaster

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    The Chess Federation of Canada has to operate within the provisions of the law for non-profit corporations in Canada. The Chess Federation of Canada board held a Zoom meeting and discussed all aspects of this case.

    The relationship between Heidi and Olga has been more complicated than this single interaction.

    Our last email sent on Wednesday at 11:02 am EST and copied to the CFC office and all board members along with Oksana and Anna:

    Hello Oksana and Anna,

    As already stated the CFC has reviewed the evidence following Heidi Gay's complaint. Chess in the Park operates independently and is not affiliated with the Chess Federation of Canada. As a board, our role does not extend to adjudicating or micromanaging the private lives and decisions of our directors outside of their duties within the CFC. The removal of a director is a significant decision, necessitating clear evidence of wrongdoing within the context of their duties for the Chess Federation of Canada. In this case, the presented evidence does not meet the required standard for such a consequential action.

    We consider the matter closed.

    Vladimir Drkulec
    President and Chairperson of Board of Directors
    Chess Federation of Canada

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oksana Golubeva View Post
    Oksana Golubeva, WFM, former CFC Women’s Coordinator
    May I ask since when Oksana became "former"? And then: Who is the current CFC Women's coordinator (and maybe the part of the Execs)?
    .*-1

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    Quote Originally Posted by Egidijus Zeromskis View Post
    May I ask since when Oksana became "former"? And then: Who is the current CFC Women's coordinator (and maybe the part of the Execs)?
    Oksana Golubeva officially resigned September 29th at 11:19 pm with an email to the CFC board of directors. She had previously notified me as president of her intention to do so. We have talked to various individuals interested and some not interested in serving out the remainder of Oksana's term.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vladimir Drkulec View Post
    Oksana Golubeva officially resigned September 29th at 11:19 pm with an email to the CFC board of directors. She had previously notified me as president of her intention to do so. We have talked to various individuals interested and some not interested in serving out the remainder of Oksana's term.
    Wow! Why did not you inform at least voting members about it two month ago?
    .*-1

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    Thank you for the clarification, Vlad.
    A little correction - I haven’t accepted a nomination for the new term.

    Best regards,
    Oksana

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