Discon 1 Guide: Insurance and Other Precautions

[This is Chapter 9 from George Scithers' Con-Committee Chairman's Guide, the story of Discon I, the 1963 Worldcon. Retyped in 2001 by Tim Illingworth, from a copy of the original 1965 publication.]

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IX. INSURANCE AND OTHER PRECAUTIONS

We've already told you about our Armed, Uniformed Guard. We also had some other precautions, no less helpful for our peace of mind, but less gaudy and conspicuous.

9.01 For one thing, the 21st World Science Fiction Convention, Inc., was inc. That is to say, the Chicon III convention committee retained a lawyer, who did the necessary things to form the World Science Fiction Convention, Incorporated, a non-profit corporation organized under the laws of the State of Illinois. The corporation is essentially the convention committee, and exists for their protection. It has no effect on the general membership of the convention at all.

The corporation charter is quite broad; the corporation is organized for the purpose of putting on conventions, and such other activities as the board of directors may decide. The first board of directors were the Chicon III committee, and, originally, the corporation was to last only until sometime in January 1964, to cover just Chicon III and the Discon. After Chicon III, the then board of directors elected the Discon committee to be their successors and resigned. After an agreement was reached between the Pacificon II and the Discon committees, the legal counsel of the corporation (who is the only part of the corporation who has to be in Illinois) was instructed to have the corporation charter amended to last to perpetuity. (He offered to try and amend the charter to last beyond perpetuity if we wanted, and then make it a test case before the courts, but…) Then, after the Discon, the Discon Committee elected the Pacificon II Committee to be the new board of directors, effective the 1st of January 1964, and resigned ourselves, effective the same date.

It is to be expected that, when the convention is held outside of the United States, that instead of passing the incorporation on to the foreign convention committee (which would hand them a bushel of tricky problems with foreign-corporation laws) the most recent US con committee will remain as a board of directors without duties, and the Corporation will become inactive until some following US convention takes it up. Why not just let it lapse? Well, the original formation of a corporation costs several hundred dollars to accomplish. While it can be dissolved at any time, that will cost another hundred-odd dollars. Thus, once the corporation is formed, it's wiser to keep it as long as there appears to be any future need for it.

What is this need? The very important necessity of keeping the finances of committee members and convention separate: not only to avoid bankrupting the committee if a con goes broke, but also to regularize tax returns and the like.

9.02 As previously mentioned, there is a grapevine of information flowing freely from hotel to hotel, regardless of affiliation, concerning the minutest details of the operations of science fiction conventions. A similar dossier most likely exists in the convention bureaus, from city to city. And you can rest assured Uncle Sam is watching you too, if you're the type that finds that a restful thought. The local sales tax situation within the District of Columbia was covered under the heading "The Auction". You will probably find your committee faced with a similar situation. Check this out ahead of time so you will not have to pay these taxes out of your own pockets.

A special form (currently color-coded as the "blue" form) is provided by the Bureau of Internal Revenue to cover the operation of your convention for the period of one year. Your convention is taxable. Don't wait for the Federal boys to inform you of this fact; pay the taxes before you pass on the balance of cash to the next committee in line.

9.03 And yes, we did have insurance, actually and literally; a $300,000/500,000 personal liability policy, protecting the convention in case we got sued as a result of an accident or something. (In passing, I strongly feel that the TAFF administrator would do well to protect himself by taking out a substantial accident insurance policy on each TAFF winner; the repercussions if a TAFFer were killed, say in an auto accident, in the host country would be very painful indeed. He might be too courteous to complain, but think of the other fans)

Now, it just might be impossible for a particular convention to obtain this personal liability policy, as underwriting policies differ from location to location, as do requirements for hotel insurance. In Chicago, no company would give coverage, not even the fabled Lloyd's of London. In all cases, the refusal was made because the convention would be held in a hotel (the Pick-Congress) which was already insured and liable for any possible incident. The issuance of such a policy would be compounding the coverage, and no company will underwrite a policy that could result in double payment for one incident.

9.04 Now, the most unpleasant type of insurance of all; protection against known troublemakers. Going by past experiences, we can expect that these, though they will represent a real worry to the con committee, will be rare. And, since a good part of the convention membership are steady con goers, word quickly gets around on the routine nuisances.

A very real, though thank ghod rare, risk remains: someone who preys in one way or another on the younger con members — teenagers and even younger. There are three possible solutions. The Discon committee seriously considered writing to one Problem and pointing out that we were aware what was up, and that the hotel staff was too. The second would be to persuade the hotel management to decline to rent a room to someone named by the committee. The third solution is one for which there is a long-standing precedent; simply bar the individual from the convention meetings.

None of these solutions are sure-fire and all may Plunge All Fandom Into War. The third technique will certainly lead to a long and bitter fight [See the Breendoggle] unless the con membership is virtually unanimous in wanting to keep out the objectionable one; if the fellow has friends among the Loud People, you can expect a campaign of vilification to be launched against you automatically. The second technique might work if the hotel management is cooperative, but is chancy; it might panic them. The first method may be the best; even if the chap shows up, the warning will probably slow him down a bit. For the prevention of slander, it would be best to seek legal advice before taking any of these actions.

If you do have to un-invite someone, remember; the members of past con committees will support your action, and the members of future con committees will be grateful for taking care of what might have been their problem instead. And when do you have to? When you find out about the risk, if you're wise. If it comes out at the inquest that you knew of the offender's behaviour and didn't bar him, the judge will throw away the key after he locks you up.

In our case, quite frankly, we wish we had sent the letter of un-invitation as an official action. Not for our own sakes, since the Discon did not (as far as we know) have any trouble, but because such a letter would have made the task of our successors that much easier when they had to deal with the problem we avoided.

9.05 One other thing that could cause you considerable embarrassment and unforeseen expenditure would be overlooking the local labor union situation. The operation of the different locals, from city to city, allows a wide variety of freedom in one area while imposing seemingly unnecessary or frivolous restrictions in others. In one city, you may not be allowed to turn on a microphone at the podium, but you can operate your own movie projector. In other cities, you may have to provide a union operator for a slide projector, or summon a union electrician to replace a burned-out bulb. And an innocent (or indignant) act on your part could - stretching the point to the extreme - cause a walkout of all the bellhops, the elevator operators, the waiters, the bartenders, the cooks…

You can imagine for yourself the consequences for your committee.

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