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Letters of the Week: May 12 - May 16

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  1. David Smith's Avatar
    Obama promised Jorge Ramos that he'd get comprehensive immigration reform
    through in his first year. He either lied or he reneged on his promise. He
    could have done it - he had Democratic majorities in both houses. Now, as
    he's about to lose the Senate, he wants to blame Republicans for not getting
    CIR?

    This guy is unbelievable. I wonder how Latino support he has left. He
    deserves to have none.
  2. Kenneth Rinzler's Avatar
    From A Parallel Universe: Treasurer’s Report – May 2014
    [editor's note: The title of the letter was left out initially. It has now been restored. 5/15/2014]

    Dear Fellow Members of AILA:

    As I near the conclusion of my promised one year only ExCom stint as your Treasurer, I’d like to give this report on what has transpired during my year in office, what is going on at the moment, and what I believe will occur in the future. It has been an interesting year,

    As you know, I campaigned on a platform of transparency. Sad to say, my fellow ExCom members, led by Crystal Williams (the true power behind AILA), fought me every step of the way and did their utmost to continue to keep information from the members. These efforts were assisted by the complete silence of the Board of Governors (BOG), as exemplified by their continued silence during this year’s controversy of the moment (electronic voting by proxy). This has been apparent to all. And now the details…


    • BOG Meetings. As you know, I have never been a proponent of attending BOG meetings, especially if one has to pay money to get there. Rank and file members have no input at these meetings, where the ExCom sets the agenda, withholds the background materials from members, and allows precious little time for public input. In short the fix is in at these meetings, especially as the BOG itself never even pretends to assert whatever little power it does have. A case in point: the recent BOG meeting, held in executive session, where voting procedures were “discussed” and voted upon. All we ever hear from the leadership is “go to a BOG meeting, make your voice heard, learn what AILA is about, etc., etc., etc.” and yet in what was arguably the most important BOG meeting since I became a member in 1992, you were shut out. And to make matters worse, as always when you were (finally) issued minutes they had absolutely no value. The minutes are a disgrace to this organization, and they always have been. Issues are always “discussed”, motions are always “made”, votes are always “taken”, but that’s all that is said. No details of the discussion are given, the actual questions being voted upon by the BOG are not given, the vote totals are not given (let alone who voted for and against); in short, no substantive information at all is given. If AILA took the minutes of the U.S. Constitutional Convention they would have no doubt consisted of comments like “slavery was discussed”, “various freedoms were talked about”, “Mr. James Madison stood up and said some stuff”, “a motion was passed”, etc. In addition, the minutes are reported by Jennifer Lynch, the Director of Membership, while Article 3, section 6 of the bylaws specifically states that only the Secretary is to perform that function: “The Secretary of the Association shall record and permanently maintain the minutes of all general membership meetings as well as of all meetings of the Board of Governors.” Thus, as with so many things concerning the operation of AILA, the rules are only followed when it suits the leadership.

    • Financial Reports. As your Treasurer, I am ashamed and embarrassed by how AILA continues to collect and (fails to) disseminate information about its finances to the membership. The recently released 2013 Financial Statement is a case in point. The categories are so overly broad as to be virtually meaningless. My personal favorite: the $935,000 spent on “Leadership and Governance”, which is to “support the leadership and training costs of the Board of Governors and Chapter Chairs.” We all know what that means and specifically how that money was spent, don’t we? And if the audited financials for the year are already complete, then there is no reason at all for the Federal tax return (Form 990) to be filed after the annual conference, other than the fact that the leadership wants to withhold the embarrassing information contained therein from the membership for as long as possible. This information would include, of course, the compensation information paid to senior staff as well as the money we have spent on the Venable law firm. I have pushed for an earlier filing, certainly before the annual meeting, but was overruled.

    • Legal Fees. I would like the membership to know the exact amount AILA has paid in legal fees in 2013, and for what services, but again I was overruled. As for whatever other monies we have given them in 2013 and so far this year, an excellent case can be made it was not well spent. Venable certainly didn’t help on the current controversy surrounding the implementation of the governing New York charities law, and as we all know now they have been replaced as advisers in this area by Milburn Drysdale, President of the Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills. The above is all the more important when one reads how my fellow ExCom member Second Vice President/Future President William Stock, who claims to be speaking only in a personal capacity yet has had access to all the information, discussions, and decisions which the general membership never had and thus it would be reasonable to believe him to be expressing the views of the ExCom regardless of his claims, stated that “before each special meeting, the association would have to spend money to set up an electronic proxy system to vote on the proposed amendment (several thousand dollars each time, minimum).” In short, as has been amply demonstrated many times. my fellow ExCom members, unfettered by any true oversight by the BOG, feel free to spend millions on advocacy, AIC, and themselves at overseas junkets and “training”, but shudder at the thought of spending a few thousand on allowing true and equal participation by the membership when it comes to voting. Shame. In addition, what we are spending on Drysdale would probably astound you. Of course, you have not been told exactly what mandate Drysdale was given (inter alia, to rewrite our bylaws, to reincorporate AILA in another jurisdiction so that we can continue to govern at will and avoid transparency requirements, including how executive compensation is determined), and you will not be. As the Pharaoh said, “so it is written, so it shall be done”.

    • Voting Procedures. Most of you are now aware of Mike Owens’ proposal to allow for easy and equal electronic voting on proposed bylaw amendments in the current election, just as the leadership does for the unopposed ExCom positions, and how the leadership (and if ever there was a misnomer in the context of AILA, “leadership” is it) opposes it because they know adoption of this voting equality, and most likely the amendment itself, would result in the inevitable end of their domination over AILA. That would be bad enough, but their tactics in opposing it recalled for me all of the hypocrisy and bad faith displayed against me in my campaign. BOG members couldn’t come out of the woodwork fast enough to attack Mike personally, with former President Bernie Wolf$dorf questioning Mike’s very integrity. It seems that AILA’s tone police, especially after the completely wasted effort by the Transparency Taskforce in its rewriting of the MC rules (including the foolish Venable “kill memo”), were inexplicably silent. And as for the majority of my fellow ExCom members, especially our incoming President, not publicly repudiating the ad hominem attacks which called Mike a jerk, a bully, and implying his motives were impure, well, they have to defend themselves, for I certainly cannot. Apparently they are too busy having their “Leadership Blogs” ghost-written, and composing parody songs begging people to come to an annual conference which supposedly had to be capped due to overwhelming interest and yet had the “early-bird” discounted rate extended for weeks, and this by an organization which goes out of its way to not help its members save money.

    • Use of Modern Technology. Like current BOG candidate Matt Udall, I have long favored the use of modern technology, such as webcasts, to both more actively involve the membership in governance matters and to save us money. Needless to say, my fellow ExCom members disagree while the current BOG characteristically stays silent. Thus this January’s BOG meeting will be in Hawaii, continuing the wasteful tradition of Panama, the Caymans, etc., for overseas junkets attended by a handful of general members. Thus I must report that we have made no progress at all in this area.


    As you know, during my time as Treasurer I had hoped to start AILA on a path to transparency, one which would continue past my self-imposed tenure of one year on the ExCom. It pains me to report that I have failed miserably. Little has changed, the same people are in charge, and now AILA is intent on reincorporating in another jurisdiction for one reason and one reason only: to maintain their stranglehold on power and wants to prevent anyone else who wants to improve how the organization is governed, make it more responsive to the wishes of the general membership – in short, anyone who questions how it’s always been done – and bring transparent practices to an organization of legal professionals who claim to be devoted to insisting on it with the government agencies they work with but refuse to require it in their own professional Bar association.

    In closing, I offer this. If you read AILA’s original certificate of incorporation, you know, the one which a small group filed in the evil state of New York back in 1946, you will find this:

    “The purposes for which this corporation is to be formed, are as follows:

    1) To cultivate the science of jurisprudence; promote reforms in the law; facilitate the administration of justice; elevate the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession; cherish the spirit of brotherhood among the members thereof…”

    I put it to you that for many years now, and certainly for the past few that I have been actively promoting transparency in AILA, it is fair to say that by their continual withholding of information, their nomination of only one candidate per office, and their predictable and unflinching opposition to any proposal and their attacks on any person who tries to change things, my fellow ExCom members and chronically pliant members of the Board of Governors have done nothing to “elevate the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession”, at least as far as the governance of this association is concerned.

    As I am no longer a candidate for office, I urge you to vote for Matt Udall for the BOG and for Mike Owens’ proposed amendment, and wish you well.


    Yours,
    Kenneth Rinzler
    Attorney at Law
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