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Letters of the Week: May 19 - May 23

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  1. Kenneth Rinzler's Avatar
    Why AILA Needs Mike Owens’ Proposed Bylaw Amendment #6


    This is going out to the 10,000 members of AILA for which I have an email address. Let’s cut to the chase.

    This will be your only real opportunity to change AILA in your lifetime. I’ve been a member since 1992 and it’s been the only opportunity I’ve ever witnessed. Let me elaborate.

    Through a fortuitous combination of a change in New York State law (AILA’s state of incorporation, although probably not for long), and the research and dedication of AILA member Mike Owens from Cologne, Germany, AILA was forced to acknowledge not only that its election procedures were illegal, but that it would have to make many other changes (to promote transparency) in how it operates to stay in compliance. This email will only address the election changes, specifically how proposed amendments to the bylaws are voted upon.

    Mike demonstrated that by allowing proxy votes, AILA could meet the law’s mandate. The obvious, honest, and efficient solution was to allow proposed amendments to the bylaws to be voted upon using the online VoteNet system, the same as is done for the (unopposed) ExCom officer candidates. But AILA said NO. AILA insisted on an added layer (or two) of requirements in an effort to make sure that supporters of the amendments would either not vote at all, or have their vote thrown out on a technicality. The ExCom denies this of course, but a quick review of their reasons shows how disingenuous they are.

    The main reason the ExCom gives for the bifurcated system being used for this election is that they wanted to obey the law, but also to continue to follow the “tradition” of the current illegal bylaws as much as possible. This is treating the membership as if we are all idiots. It’s the equivalent of saying that “we don’t want to put the dog’s food bowl on a different part of the kitchen floor because we’re afraid he won’t find it.” Calling it paternalistic gives them too much of an excuse. They’re doing it because they will not stop at anything to maintain their grip on power. It’s just another twist on the old “because that’s the way it’s always been done”, except that this time it’s deadly.

    Which leads us to the recent BOG meeting held in executive session. Here’s some of what I had to say recently about that:

    “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.”

    In short, the general membership was told nothing in the recent BOG meeting. We don’t know who presented what, apparently only verbal legal opinions were discussed, and the nearly invisible BOG members accepted the attorney-client privilege excuse (again!), sitting there like corpses and not challenging anything, even after the meeting. Thus what little discussion there is on Russell Abrutyn’s proposed amendments dealing with the composition and tenure of the BOG is basically irrelevant, as whether the BOG is composed of 15 people or 150, whether all ex-Presidents or Chapter Chair sycophants, won’t change anything. The BOG is, as it has always been, a rubber-stamp body, no different than exists in Russia and similar countries; it doesn’t exercise any true power. So vote as you will on his amendments, because it seems only the Chapter Chairs are all excited about it. And, by the way, as the examples of DC Chapter Chair Cynthia Rosenberg and Ohio Chapter Chair Philip Eichorn have shown – and possibly others of which I am not aware -- the gloves are off when it comes to improperly using chapter resources and listserves to oppose all of these proposed amendments.

    As has also been admitted by now, AILA leadership is hell-bent on reincorporating in another state so as to escape the transparency requirements of New York law, but that’s a story for another time.

    If any of you wasted your time in watching the Doug Stump video in which he feebly attempts to explain the rationale behind the new voting procedures, during which he makes it palpably clear that he cannot wait to give up his post as Rotating President, you may have wondered where is the rest of the ExCom in this? Incoming Rotating President Leslie Holman seems to have fallen off of a cliff, and thus Bill Stock has taken it upon himself to be AILA’s resident pit-bull and lead the charge against any change which might possibly result in true transparency at AILA. Of course it doesn’t really matter too much, because we have a permanent Executive Director who is the real power behind the throne.

    So if you haven’t voted yet, please support Mike Owens’ proposal (#6), whether through an in-person vote at the annual conference or via proxy (Mike’s version to be released soon). It’s AILA’s only hope. See you at the annual meeting, but I won’t be wasting my money on the annual conference
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