Monday, November 23, 2009

ASMP Or Reality TV?

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Abraham Lincoln

If you're an ASMP General Member then it's highly likely that you've been getting e-mails from Scott Highton. These e-mails from Mr. Highton, a former ASMP director, contain some pretty wild accusations about the current board's activities. Charges that the current board of directors lied to the membership in seeking a dues increase while sitting on a windfall of $1.3 million, concealing the receipt of the $1.3 million itself, using the money to make illicit payments to each other under the table, that the board is misguided, out of touch with the membership, that they put their own financial interests ahead of [those of the members], that they've (the board) committed tax fraud... oh, the list just goes on and on and on.

Many ASMP members don't really know what to make of all of this. While members know the board's really not made-up of crooks, Mr. Highton's charges seem reasonable somehow. And what about that $1.3 million? Why did we need a dues increase if we have that money? Is Highton right? Have we all been duped? And very recently Highton has enlisted Dick Weisgrau, former Executive Director of ASMP, in his campaign to sling a little more mud as regards tax reporting issues that, stopping just short of making an accusation (why? because libel is a slippery slope), imply criminal behavior.

I've written about this before and just because Highton's accusations keep getting traction I'm going to write about it again today.

ASMP members have been enduring the shrill protests of Scott Highton for many years and while his issues vary slightly from year to year they are always presented by Scott in a manner that casts dispersions on the character of our board members and questions their integrity.

Scott Highton is the perpetual squeaky wheel. He is never happy, he is always complaining. For a period of time Scott Highton served on the board of directors. His contributions were remembered by one member as, "a series of disasters punctuated by chaos." His latest e-mails are not intended to solve ASMP's problems, they're intended to exaggerate them and to furnish a stage from which he can play a leading role. He loves the spotlight and the attention and he works tirelessly to attack the people who do the real work of ASMP. His rantings and ravings demand our attention and cost us real money. His campaign is relentless and over the past several years has tried to divide ASMP, not strengthen it. Highton is smart enough, and clever enough, to conjure up just enough plausibility to make his presentations sound reasonable, and it's these half-truths... combined with some glaring omissions... that have wrought so much havoc.

I've been an ASMP member since 1972 in three chapters (NY, NJ, Chicago/Midwest) and at three levels (Student, Associate, General), an ASMP volunteer since 1981. One of the great benefits of being involved has been having the opportunity to meet and get to know many of you, our national directors, every one of the people Scott Highton mentions in his e-mails including Scott himself. Being somewhat an insider, I've learned that the people who now lead ASMP at the national level are the most effective leadership I've seen over the years I've been an ASMP member.

ASMP is more productive now than it's ever been. Every one of our directors, every member of our staff and our executive director are hard working, honest people of the highest calibre and with the utmost integrity. It's my distinct pleasure to know and work with them, and to call them my friends.

Is ASMP perfect? No, it is not. Are Highton's accusations true? Not by a long shot! I've found Scott Highton, and this is strictly my opinion, to be disgruntled, jealous and malicious; likely due to his failure to be re-elected to the national board of directors.

To best illustrate how Highton has spent the past few years spreading incendiary rumors about the board's activities is this: Highton claims that the board pled poverty asking for a dues increase while ASMP was receiving a $1.3 million grant. That grant was given with the stipulation that ASMP not use the money for normal operating expenses, so a dues increase was entirely appropriate. Scott knows that the grant is subject to the aforementioned stipulation, yet he's quite vocal in saying that the board is trying to scam the membership. It's an outrageous claim, and like his others, completely without merit.

Should we be spending our valuable time and resources answering the ridiculous or should we be talking about our future, about how we're going to go about advancing our primary mission of making the world safe for professional photographers?

Let's make a point of rededicating ourselves to the mission that brought us all together: improving the lot of the working professional photographer. This is what we ought to be discussing. Where have we been, what are we doing, can we do more, where's there room for improvement in what we've done? Let's kick that up a notch.

To that end I'm announcing my candidacy for election to the ASMP board of directors in 2010. Over the years I've worked hard to advance photographers' interests as an ASMP chapter Director, a Chapter Vice President (Chicago/Midwest) and a Chapter President (New Jersey); as well as a principal founder of another trade association, SAA, which my friends and I built from the ground up.

We can build a better future, a more stable working environment, be better educated both technically and with sound business practices to navigate an increasingly difficult economy, orphan works, and a host of other obstacles. I'm asking for your vote in the upcoming election so that the work that's so important to us all can continue unabated, and I'll appreciate your support.


Anonymous Maria Negrette said...

Thank you. Quite simply and with great appreciation, thank you for speaking on this again because I missed your previous post on this subject. My in box gets so loaded with emails from every direction that half the time I glaze over the Highten ones. This issue has always been a big confusion on who's saying what and what's true. You very elequently colored a clear picture of the whole sum of it. It made sence. All the peices of the story that I was made aware of are finally in perspective.
I've been volunteering on the Los Angeles board since 2005 and recall some of the talking points but was never fully informed of each topic, so much of the talk has been vaguely familiar. Now I can sleep soundly. LoL
All my Best,
Maria Negrette
Maria Negrette Photography
ASMP Los Angeles, Vice President

4:00 AM  
Blogger A Visual Resource said...


You and Dick Weisgrau have a lot in common. I doubt no one could "enlist" you in something you didn't believe in. And, I've known Dick for a very long time. I know that no one can enlist him in anything and I trust his instincts.

I know this ASMP election is getting to be a real issue, one that could make or break it. The photography business is breaking many of our mutual friends.

I called you, as one of the people I thought could be good for the Board. We spoke briefly, and as you've candidly admitted made some statements that turned me off. You say it was "joking". And, I'll accept your word.

I was a treasurer of SAA. I've been involved with ASMP since the 70's. And with SAA I became familiar with taxess and non-profits.

I am concerned, and if you go to ASMP's 990 non-profit forms on line our ED says we have NO CONFLICT OF INTEREST RULES. His signature on years worth of IRS forms. Many are filed late.

I don't say the Board are crooks. That is a wild accusation which you try to tag smear opponents of the current Board with by association.

I want a Board able to file forms, have a strong ethics standard, and a responsibility to its members. The Board is a tool of the membership, not the ruling class. It should be responsible to and for its members.

Leif Skoofors

5:55 PM  

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