One of the stories I’ve been following over the past few weeks has been reports of serious infighting going on at the Explorers Club, an organization that has been around for more than a hundred years and has counted such notable explorers as Neil Armstrong and Sir Edmund Hillary amongst its ranks. Today, a story appeared in the New York Post that gives us a further glimpse at what is going on behind closed doors at the venerable institution.
You can read the Post article by clicking here, but in a nutshell it shares some details of a completely different internal struggle from the one that I’ve been writing about. It seems that club leadership (read President Lorie Karnath) saw fit to bring disciplinary actions against one of its board of directors for accepting free tickets to the club’s annual spring dinner. The tickets were provided by the sponsor of the event, Rolex, and were given to Explorers Club member Josh Bernstein, who the Post says was “censured and fined” over the incident.
I’m sure more than a few of you have seen Josh on his popular television shows Digging for the Truth and Into the Unknown. Bernstein, who has always been an explorer first and a television personality second in my mind, didn’t offer comment on the affair, but his lawyer says that it has “resulted in unwarranted criticism of his character and integrity” inside the organization.
EC member Ken Kamler, who is also a club director, is actually much more candid in his assessment of the situation however, saying that the disciplinary action was taken as more of a vindictive move by Karnath over Bernstein. Kamler says that Josh is a potential candidate to be a future president of the Explorers Club, and is a direct threat to Karnath, who is up for re-election in 2012. Berstein’s position on the board is also subject to re-election next year too, and the censure and fining could be used as a way to cast him in a bad light, with club elections just around the corner. Kamler concludes his statements by saying that under Karnath, the EC has become a “rich person’s travel club,” as the current president seems more interested in “rubbing shoulders with explorers while promoting cronies.”
That last statement plays more into the controversy that I had been writing about recently. (You can read my previous reports here, here, and here.) As you may recall, my coverage of what was happening at the club started a few weeks back when I received word that 10 of the 12 members of the prestigious Flag and Honors Committee resigned when their selection process for awards and medals was openly questioned by nominees who had no business even knowing they were nominated, let alone the process that took place to select the eventual winners. My sources tell me that some of those nominees were put forward by the President, or her closest advisors, and that they were not happy when the Committee decided to select other winners.
As a result, the entire process was called into question at a board meeting in St. Louis, resulting in attacks on the integrity of the Flag and Honors Committee itself. I’m told it was quite a heated discussion, that went on for some time, and afterwards 10 of the 12 members of the Committee sent a letter to the Board asking for an investigation into the breach in confidentiality over their final nominations, and an over all look at how the awards were being given. The implication was that some of the EC leadership were using the awards for political gain or to reward friends, some of which had done little to earn such an honor. The letter asked for the investigation to be completed ahead of the next board meeting on January 27th, and that if such an investigation didn’t take place, the 10 members would resign from the F&H committee. Rather than wait for the board to respond however, Karnath chose to accept the resignations immediately. By the way, the only two members of the Committee to not sign the letter to the Board were Karnath and her husband.
These two stories, the move against Josh Bernstein and the actions with the Flag and Honors Committee illustrate what some are saying are moves by the President, and her closest confidants, to consolidate power at the Explorers Club to ensure that Karnath stays at the helm of the organization for years to come. In her defense, she did guide the organization through a very tough economic phase and she found ways to keep the organization from hemorrhaging money. She has been credited with “bringing the EC into the 21st century” in a number of ways. But these current inside stories seem to hint that there is a high level of nepotism going on as well, which flies in the face of the values on which the Club was founded.
I’ll finish this post with a direct quote from the article by the Post.
Fellow director Jim Clash added,“What is happening there now is truly insane. Sir Edmund Hillary, our late honorary president, is probably rolling over in his grave.”