LNC Executive Committee Conference Call 6/23/05
The motion reads as follows:
"Whereas, the LNC believes that Raiser's Edge database program has not been given enough attention by the national staff so that it is accurate, reliable, beneficial to the national program and beneficial to the state programs, and Whereas, the LNC appreciates its hardworking employees but believes their actions have not been focused on making the program work and in being responsive to the state affiliates and their needs;
"Whereas the LNC has tried to informally address these issues, without success;
"Resolved, the LNC orders the Executive Director to freeze all salaries and benefits unless otherwise required by contract or law;
"It is further Resolved that the budget shall be amended to withdraw all discretionary spending by the Executive Director and there shall be no expenditure in the following areas:
"Program line items, including all Outreach and Media Relations, with the exception of LP News and UMP; and
"All project line items, with the exception of retiring the Ballot Access debt.
"It is further Resolved that any direct or indirect violation of this motion by the Executive Director will be considered cause for termination of the Executive Director.
"It is further Resolved that these salary freezes and budget amendments shall be in effect until processes are in place and implemented that result in:
"The monthly data dumps to the states including two phone numbers, if available and two e-mail addresses, if available; and
"The monthly data dumps to the states including information the status of the most current address (labeled as the bad address field in the prior database); and
"The monthly data dumps to the states reconciling to the monthly state by state membership report."
Nelson explained the practical effects during the debate. He said it would put off possible raises or new benefits for some employees were due annual review soon, result in no quarterly bonus for Seehusen at the August LNC meeting, keep Sam New and other staff from attending outreach conferences, and stop membership acquisition mailings. At-large representative BetteRose Ryan suggested that this should take only two or three weeks.
Chair Michael Dixon noted, as he also had at the beginning of the meeting, that as part of the settlement with Blackbaud (who makes RE) they would be sending in some of their people to our office by month's end for training and data cleanup, and that they had agreed to clean up the list quarterly on an ongoing basis. Maryland ED Roy Meyers has carried forward the projects Chris Farris was working on when he resigned, apparently with some continuing assistance from Farris. Dixon also said that simply the news that the Executive Committee would consider such a motion had definitely gotten the attention of staff and spurred them to greater action.
Vice Chair Lee Wrights spoke against the motion, saying that we would be shutting down the entire office over one thing with which only two employees have direct involvement. He also accurately predicted the demoralizing effect it would have on staff.
At-large representative Michael Colley (not a member of the Executive Committee) asked that, as the new Chair of the Employment Policy and Compensation Committee, his committee should be allowed to do its work, and this motion would take away their latitude to complete their review. After the vote, Colley said the action made him very uncomfortable.
Due to the conference call format, all votes are by roll:
YES: Nelson, Ryan, and Regional Representative Aaron Starr.
Abstain: At-large representative Bill Redpath, Secretary Bob Sullentrup.
Not Voting: Dixon
Not Present: At-large representative Mark Rutherford.
The motion carried 3-1-2.
My personal opinion is that this decision rivals the secret ballot to double dues as the dumbest move of the LNC so far this term, and it's a shame that only three people could do it. Certainly I have advocated strongly that these problems needed to be solved yesterday, and so can definitely understand the frustration of the LNC. They're tired of taking heat from the state parties and are feel the pressure to get this resolved.
But this is not the way to motivate one's staff. I can't see it as anything other than an insult, and that's apparently how it was taken. Several staff members walked out in protest on Friday afternoon when they received word of this motion. I fully expect them to be back at their desks on Monday morning.
This approach shows that this LNC does not have much ability to manage people. They apparently ignored, or just didn't hear, that outside consultants are tasked with solving these very issues at no extra cost to us starting this week. Having worked at many jobs from entry level in a large corporation to managing departments of several dozen people, I know this kind of ultimatum only breeds hostility and resentment. It sends an unwelcome mixed message about their confidence in Seehusen, who they just lauded and awarded a new contract last month. Finally, it is astounding that the LNC would want a political party to stop doing politics for any reason for any amount of time.
My prediction is that our staff will take the high road and win the political battle with high performance. I do think the people who really needed to snap to attention to make up for their lack of customer service, Blackbaud, have done so precisely because of our staff's diligence (particularly Robert Kraus, as noted in my last meeting report), and this attempt to fix the database will show results. And the full LNC will revisit and overturn this decision at their August meeting if not before.
Other agenda items:
Dixon reported that the policy for renting out our mailing and email lists has been revisited in light of the complaint by Steve Kubby, who was denied use of it. He said these lists would generally be made available to Libertarian candidates but not to anyone else except in extraordinary circumstances. The only list exchange we have participated in within the last year was with the Advocates for Self-Government, and that was motivated in part to help them recoup investment in a letter they had already printed. Dixon stated he was open to negotiating with Kubby if the LNC wanted him to. Starr informed the committee that the California LP had engaged in similar negotiations with Kubby before and decided not to rent him their list because Kubby would not assure them that the money he raised from this appeal would be not be spent on personal expenses. No action was taken on this item.
Nelson reported that they had received a letter from the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) in late May asking us to enter into an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) regarding our February 2003 report which was last amended in August 2004. ADR is FEC-speak for just sitting down and informally working things out, rather than an MUR (Matter Under Review), which is generally far less convivial. Nelson has followed through on our FEC consultant's suggestion to hire special counsel based in DC who specializes in FEC matters. The consultant has finished their analysis of our recent FEC reports with recommendations, and we will be working with that firm on any amendments and corrections. The discrepancies uncovered in their reconciliation amount to less than $2500 total, which apparently is not bad for clients in similar situations.
Nelson reported that revenues are below projections now that the final results of the Annual Report are in. He offered two motions for reports which both passed 5-0. One report is to give a detailed summary of all products and services where the account payable (AP) is past due as of June 30th, and to reduce past due AP items from its current level of about 70% of AP down to 10%. (It was noted that the Blackbaud settlement alone, once completed, will reduce AP by 20%.) The other motion asks for a similar report on receivables past due, including details of any collection activities.
With the promotion of Fred Collins to the Bylaws Committee, that committee no longer has alternates. Dixon suggested that he LNC chose a list of ranked alternates from those who had already applied for the committee previously at the August meeting.
Dixon feels that the LP New Jersey matter is resolved, and plans to attend their big social event on July 9th.