Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On ASMP Elections (For General Members Only)

For those who don't know much about me..... I joined ASMP in 1972 as a Student Member. Since then I've been an Associate Member and, in 1983, I became a General Member. I've served four terms as a Director and been twice elected President of ASMP's New Jersey Chapter. I currently serve as a Director of ASMP's Chicago/Midwest Chapter and for the past nine months I've served as Vice President of ASMP Chicago/Midwest. For the record, this is not an official ASMP communication, rather my personal opinion.

Like yourself, I've been receiving e-mails from Scott Highton on various issues. Scott has a history of opposing most major initiatives of ASMP's National Board Of Directors. Most recently he's led crusades against giving the National Board control over setting ASMP member dues, the subsequent adoption of a proposed dues increase, and now he leads a crusade against the payment of speaker fees to ASMP National Directors.

Scott claims that the National Board Of Directors is engaged in an ongoing conspiracy to put large sums of money in each other's pockets... your money... and he's backed his accusations with 'facts' confirming his suspicions. The real fact is that Scott has weaved a web of half-truths and innuendo to support his allegations, and he's been doing so on a variety of issues, not limited to those mentioned above, ever since he lost his seat on the ASMP National Board.

Those he accuses in a conspiracy to defraud you are: George Anderson; Richard Anderson (2nd Vice President); Jim Cavanagh; Ben Coleman; Lynne Damianos; Blake Discher; Jim Flynn; Shawn Henry (Secretary); Todd Joyce (President); Bruce Katz (Treasurer); Richard Kelly (1st Vice President); Greg Kiger; Peter Krogh; Ed McDonald and Thomas Werner.

The conspiracy Scott alleges is that the Directors authorize ASMP to pay speaking fees to those participating in ASMP educational seminars. He claims that these ASMP members should share their specialized knowledge with the rest of us as volunteers, not paid speakers, and he further claims that your dues payments, your hard-earned money, is going into their pockets.

Of the Directors named above, only three are on the ASMP lecture circuit.....
Peter Krogh, Director, presents "Get Your DAM Stuff Together" and for this he is paid not by ASMP but by Microsoft. Blake Discher, Director, presents "I Stink At Negotiating" and "Is Your Web Site making You Money?" For the former, Blake is paid not by ASMP but by Microsoft, and for the latter he is paid not by ASMP but by Adbase & Live Books. Thomas Werner, Director, presents "The Business Of Fine Art Photography" and he is paid by ASMP. One out of three. That's some conspiracy!

Each of these seminars takes two to three days of the presenter's time (includes travel), not to mention the time it took to develop the program. Doing this for 39 chapters consumes approximately 78 days per speaker. That's 78 days away from their businesses and their families. It's worthy of compensation, regardless of who pays them.

Of the other seminars ASMP presents, Paula Lerner & Gail Mooney lead one on Multimedia & Video (paid by ASMP - neither are directors but Gail is a candidate in the current election), Susan Carr presents "What Do I Charge" (paid by Microsoft - she's not a director) and Judy Herrmann presents "Taking Control Of Your Career" (paid by Microsoft - she's not a director).

Even if all were paid by ASMP, that means that twelve board members who are not also lecturers would have to be involved in a conspiracy authorizing these payments. Well, what do they have to gain from all of this? I'll tell you: nothing!

Each of the members of the National Board, as well as your local Chapter officers, volunteer a significant amount of time to ASMP leadership. The vast majority are not only outstanding volunteers but outstanding photographers as well and some, those leading the seminars, are recognized experts in their particular area. These are precisely the people we want leading our Society.

These are tough times for photographers. Our economy is shrinking, advertisers and editorial outlets are cutting back, fees are spiraling downward. Those leading ASMP's Seminar Series are helping us stay abreast of trends, keep up with changes and teach us how to better compete in the marketplace... and because we're all competitors as well as colleagues, they're teaching us how to compete effectively with themselves. This is above and beyond the call of volunteerism, and as speaking fees and honoraria have become a normal part of their revenue streams, if we prevent them from earning a living they will have little choice but to resign their posts in favor of remaining profitable. That would only do damage to ASMP, and it's not a desirable outcome.

In addition to the speakers, Scott accuses the board of hiring each other to perform other tasks for the Society such as programming or assignment photography. This has been done in an above board and entirely proper manner, and only when the director was also the best qualified for the job. In fact, Scott Highton himself was hired to do some computer programming for ASMP when he was a national director. There was nothing sinister going on then and there's nothing sinister going on now.

Scott Highton has also served ASMP as an outstanding volunteer in the past but his recent tirades, his tactic of character assassination based on half-truths and innuendo is despicable and reeks of sour grapes, and gravely harms ASMP.

As regards the process: ASMP bylaws provide for representative governance. You choose national and local chapter leadership to represent your interests. We, in turn, are given the opportunity to declare either Pro or Con on pending referenda. Not a single National Director, not one Chapter President (after consulting the chapter directors) has declared as Pro on Scott's proposal. Not even Scott's local chapter leadership supports his proposal. Doesn't that tell you something?

I'm going to cast my vote as follows: for national director I'm supporting Chris Hollo, Todd Joyce, Kate Baldwin, Jim Cavanaugh and Gail Mooney; on the referendum I'm voting No. I urge you to do the same.


Anonymous John Mutrux said...

I wrote a comment on the Burns Auto Parts blog this morning that I thought was fair, reasoned and told more of the story than in her original blog posting. Leslie declined to publish my comment and referred me here. Joe, I have a lot of respect for you and you are the last person who I would have expected to be tolerating the appearance of conflict of interest.

The ASMP Member Referendum, for me, is fundamentally about openness and transparency and only indirectly about directors approving payments to each other. Where there's smoke there's fire and the ASMP board have been behaving like a lot of firemen, doing everything possible to defeat the referendum.

Everybody, please remember that over 200 General and Life members signed the petition in favor of the by-laws change. Let's leave personalities aside and look at the facts of the situation: It's simply unethical for board members to be in a position to approve payments to each other. If these talented individuals want to be paid for work for ASMP, fine. Just let them resign from the board, first. This is Ethics 101.

I was charter member of the Kansas City/Mid-America Chapter of ASMP, on the local board for 10 years, President for two, and now a Life Member (member for more than 25 years.)

I'm voting in favor of the referendum in the interest of openness and transparency in ASMP's governance.

5:00 PM  
Anonymous John Schweikert said...

My frustration is having members in ASMP that don't make any effort to find the facts themselves and take what Scott says at face value. That's shameful, and no member should be proud of their own laziness that leads to supporting a referendum that WILL be destructive to a long foundation of ASMP, further education which is at the moment through the nationally available educational seminar series. As Joe points out, the speakers spend a ridiculous amount of their time for these seminars outside of running their own photo businesses, pay them for their time, period! No conspiracy, just fair market value for doing a service. Whether the money comes from sponsors or not. Now, more than ever, we all know it will be more difficult to get sponsors in the current and foreseeable future.

Firstly, I don't see many members offering their time to be nominated to the national board. Secondly, I don't see too many members offering teaching and speaking tours to members at such low entry fees such as those seminars currently available through national. I don't see Scott Highton currently educating the next level of upcoming photographers. I don't see Scott making any effort to present FACTS. He simply CREATES connections that support his own agenda. I don't see Scott, after the last few years of blowing spoke, doing one ounce of good for ASMP.

His actions through conspiratorial and divisive emails amount to a campaign with only negative outcomes if permitted.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous virginia executive photographer said...

As one of many concerned ASMP members who supported this measure and appeared on one or two email lists to that effect it all seemed fair and moderate to have some kind of oversight for services that could on occasion be found for free through the general members or by a fair bidding process.

At least that's what the measure seemed to be before I received my ballot.

It took me just two seconds to realize that this was not fair, moderate or reasoned and would gut ASMP good and proper like the proverbial fish and vote NO!

If we are expected to be paid fairly for our work, professionalism, creativity and time (put anything else in you like) shouldn't we also expect that reward for others giving their time, effort, experience and lives?

Scott has not been straight up about the wording or the far reaching ramifications of this action. It looks more and more like someone who wants this deck of cards that benefit so many of us and beyond (orphan works) to topple into the waves and be lost forever.

Please vote NO before there isn't anything to vote on at all.

We as a community deserve the best and brightest on the board and a small reward for their contribution is soundly justified.

Mark Finkenstaedt

1:32 AM  
Blogger Joe P. said...

The fact that 200+ voting members have signed a petition seeking a change in the Society's by-laws doesn't mean that the proposal has any actual merit, it only means that 200+ voting members have been hoodwinked by its author.

There are 15 national directors. Only three of them are leading ASMP seminars. The other twelve, who have no financial interest either way, have approved of this arrangement... and the Society's money is only supporting one of the seminars. The fee paid to the speaker for this one seminar (by the Society) is largely recouped by admission charges to attendees for the events. It results in no cost to ASMP.

Further, adoption of the proposal threatens the President's stipend, a necessary payment to compensate the President for his expenses in traveling to the geographically diverse chapters on Society business. In my opinion, that ought to be increased rather than done away with.

1:40 AM  
Blogger Brent Nicastro said...

1. Oldest trick in the book: When you disagree with someone's message, attack the messenger.

2. You don't agree that the board hid the $1.3 million windfall from the membership. Why, then, was this not revealed until a disgruntled member forced to board to acknowledge it? This is tantamount to lying by omision. I believe the board felt that telling the membership about this money would damage their attempts to ram through a dues increase. All that would have been necessary is for the board to explain that we recieved this money, but it can't be put into the general fund and must be used for education. One board member actually had the gall to state publicly that the board was afraid to release information about the money for fear the board would be inundated with suggestions as to how to use it. That says to me that our board feels it's ideas are superior to those of the lowly members at large.

3. If the payments to board members were being done above board and were justified, why was this information not readily available to members and why was it not reported on the form 990 sent to the IRS? This really looks suspiscious. Weren't there audits done in those three years when incorrect form 990 entries were made?

4. I have yet to hear a plausible explanation for why the Members Only Forum was shut down. Considering the timing, I and many other members feel this was done to prevent members from disseminating information about what was going on. Someone didn't like what was being written, so our only means to communicate with each other was removed.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Joe P. said...

Brent, to answer your questions...

1) It's not a matter of disagreeing with the messenger. If he was presenting incontrovertible fact there would be no problem. The problem is, the messenger, Highton, is a LIAR!

2) Everyone knew about the $1.3 million and the formal announcement was scheduled to coincide with PhotoPlus Expo in NYC. No disgruntled member forced ASMP to announce, Photo District News ran a story on the grant before PhotoPlus so ASMP had no choice but to announce sooner than planned. Announced at PhotoPlus, it would have been *three months* before we were due to vote on the dues increase (PhotoPlus is in October, elections in February).

3) Money from sponsors (Microsoft, Adbase, LiveBooks, et al) is given directly to ASMP for the purposes specified. ASMP simply handles the disbursements for them. There was some doubt as to whether it was necessary to declare this pass-thru money on the Form 990. There was never, and I repeat, NEVER a threat of prosecution or fines or even a sideways glance from the IRS. This is another Highton lie.

4) The forum had fallen into disuse, except by Scott Highton. Members had lost interest in it and the ASMP web redesign omitted it in favor of four other ASMP forums (on YahooGorups), Facebook, Twitter and the ASMP blog. There's plenty of opportunity for ASMP members to discuss and comment on the issues of the day. It was redundant, it was expensive, it was not being used, it's gone. Get over it.

And we obviously have means to communicate. Your blog, my blog, etc. You see that I don't censor dissenting opinions so you can discuss anything you want here. Plenty of ASMP members read this blog.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Joe P. said...

One more thing: if you'd simply step up to the plate, get involved in ASMP operations whether at the chapter level (your chapter is Chicago/Midwest) or the national level, you'd know about all of this stuff in advance and not be dependent on Scott Highton's disinformation.

We in chapter leadership positions knew about all of this stuff and were brainstorming with the national board on how best to put those funds to use. There were at least 300 chapter leaders involved in this discussion. That's no cover-up.

Also, I dare you to find me three photographers who agree on anything. How in the world do you imagine a conspiracy of the proportions Highton alleges would ever be pulled-off? Can't you see through all of this BS?

We're paying attention, why aren't you?

7:44 PM  

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