Thursday, March 12, 2009

Resignation; The Great Laptop Caper

I have been accused of leaving the USCF without resigning. Here is a copy of my written resignation letter, hand delivered to John McCrary on my behalf by Shawn Pealer on August 7, 2003. Note that if I had gone on sick leave (or been fired, for that matter), the USCF would have been obligated by virtue of my employment contract to pay me three months severance pay. Understand that resigning the way I did, which was necessary due to doctor's orders forbidding me from flying due to the risk of blood clots, saved the USCF the obligation of paying any severance to me.

I offered to cooperate with the new board seated in Los Angeles but, due strictly to political motives, I became persona non grata. My book will describe the situation candidly and more fully.

The letter (exactly as it was sent):

August 7, 2003

R. John McCrary, Ph.D.
United States Chess Federation
3054 U.S. Route 9W
New Windsor, NY 12553

Dear John,

It is with great sadness and personal regret that I must resign my position as Executive Director of the United States Chess Federation for health reasons, effective immediately.

I have had increasing difficulty, especially during the past two months, keeping up with the workload and travel requirements of the job. In an attempt to compensate, I have been working long hours resulting in a chronic state of fatigue. Moreover, I have experienced periods of dizziness and frequent falls. These are symptoms that I have had to cope with since my 1997 stroke but they had been less frequent until June of this year.

More significantly, I am aware that the blood clots in my lower extremities which are triggered by a combination of poor circulation and long periods of sitting, and often exacerbated by the pressurized cabin of an airliner, have started to recur. I can usually tell when this happens by a burning sensation in one or both legs. In this situation, I have been advised by my doctor not to fly. Even so, it took me five days to drive back from Tennessee last month due in part to severe pain in my side, possibly the result of a pulmonary embolism. The trip should have taken a day and a half, at most. As a result, I missed several important meetings and deadlines.

Recently, my physician performed an echocardiogram which confirmed the existence of a shunt in the wall that separates the chambers of my heart. This can allow blood and potential clots to pass through under certain circumstances such as physical strain. It was such an event that directly led to my 1997 stroke. In addition, the echocardiogram showed that the dividing wall between the chambers is soft and floppy, more like a wet noodle than the firm tissue that it is suppose to be. The result is erratic blood flow through my heart. My understanding is that any medical intervention that could be considered, at this point, would be far more dangerous than the problem itself. It is not a painful situation to live with but I occasionally get a vague fluttering sensation inside my chest followed by an immediate drain of energy. When this happens, I usually lie down for 30 minutes to two hours until I get my strength back. Obviously, this can and has resulted in some awkward moments on the job. And, like other symptoms that I mentioned, it seems to be occurring more frequently during the past several weeks.

These problems have also become a mental distraction; not only to me, but probably for many of my friends and business associates who have observed me as I have struggled. My only option is to resign and focus on strengthening my body by a combination of rest, nutrition, exercise and medication. I will not be doing myself, my family, or the U.S. Chess Federation a service by continuing to weaken physically and thereby failing to perform the job in conformity with your standards and mine.

I have remained hopeful of climbing on a plane for our meetings in Los Angeles, even until this morning. But I am certain that it is a risk that I should not take. This morning, I gave Shawn Pealer a package of materials that I had hoped to distribute in Los Angeles, including a clean copy of the audited financial statements. I asked him to give them to Barbara Vandermark for copying and for circulation to you and others as required. I also briefed him on my physical circumstances and asked him to alert you that this letter would be E-mailed to each of the Executive Board members today.

I will always remain appreciative for the opportunity that you and the other members of the Executive Board have given me to serve the U.S. Chess Federation. I will make myself available to the extent possible to ensure a smooth and orderly transition. Surely there is still a great deal of work as well as a myriad of challenges ahead for the USCF. However, I remain confident that, together, we have pointed the organization in the right direction.

Best wishes always,


Frank A. Niro
Executive Director

Additional info regarding my laptop (which somehow became a matter of controversy on

The following was written by Susan Polgar on January 1, 2007. I totally concur, except that the hard drive crashed in Cambridge, NY in June, 2005. I had to buy a new computer.

"The laptop belonging to Mr. Niro, not the USCF. He began his tenure of ED as a
volunteer. As part of the agreement with that board, he received a laptop but no pay. He later became a paid ED but the laptop was already his.

When the new board took over in August 2003, they were not aware of the situation. I even offered to pay for it if they refused to honor the agreement of the previous board with Mr. Niro. However, that was not neeeded as they agreed to give him back his laptop. I took the laptop to Mr. Niro who was recovering from a heart attack in Connecticut. It was the right thing to do.

In regards to personal info on the laptop, Mr. Niro had pictures of his children in it as well as the book that he is writing to his son. It does not matter how many times I answer, more lies will surface.

Best wishes,
Susan Polgar"

Finally, here's what I wrote in an e-mail to certain USCF Executive Board members in early 2008:

"A friend has let me know that Sam Sloan's recent "laptop gate" posting has come to your attention. For the record, his accusations are a complete fiction. I have never stolen anything from anyone and I never will.

I gave two years of my life as USCF Executive Director and even continued to work after a February 2003 heart attack slowed me down considerably. Half of the time that I was at the helm I worked for no salary. When I left, I had $8,000 in unreimbursed business expenses which I never submitted, and I purposely resigned in such a way that USCF would not be obligated to pay me $35,000 in severance pay.

Once I left, I consistently made myself available to board members and staff to discuss any matters for which I had information. I remain a phone call or e-mail away. My cell phone is 503-347-0750.

As for the laptop in question, it was purchased for my permanent personal use by the 2002 board in lieu of compensation. I left it behind so that Mike Nolan and Grant Perks and the new board could remove any files they wanted. After a few weeks, I asked for it. Just to be sure there would be no problems, I offered topay $500 for it. Two members of the current USCF board picked it up on my behalf and brought it to me in East Hampton, Connecticut, where I lived at the time in order to be close to my son. They did not deliver it to me at Foxwoods as Mr. Sloan states.

The controls in place at the USCF in 2003 would not have made it possible for me (or anyone else) to get money out of the USCF accounts without proper authorization.

I do not understand why people give such credibility to a convicted felon who has been diagnosed with serious mental health problems. I'm am incensed over his slanderous remarks and I plead with you not to perpetuate his unsubstantiated falsehoods.

This situation has already caused me great embarrassment with my children, my fellow church members and my wife's family. I trust that you will treat me as you would want to be treated in similar circumstances.

Thank you for your help.

Best wishes,
Frank Niro"