by Charles S.P. Hodge

(Author's Note: In order to save money, the board held its fall meeting through a series of telephone conference calls held August 11, September 1, October 6, and October 12. Adrian DeBlaey, who had been designated by the board of publications as the ex-officio member, was in attendance. Following these calls, DeBlaey submitted his resignation for personal and health-related reasons. President Gray, while expressing much appreciation for DeBlaey's years of service, accepted his resignation. DeBlaey reluctantly indicated that he would not be able to write the summary of the conference calls, thus requiring me to take up the challenge. In order to prepare this summary, I had to review the minutes of these meetings very carefully. Gray gained the consent of former BOP member Winifred Downing to serve out the remaining portion of DeBlaey's term. Downing did attend the midyear board meeting in Las Vegas, Nev. She will be responsible for writing summaries of that meeting and other board meetings through the post-convention meeting in Las Vegas.)

August 11 Meeting

The meeting was called to order by Chris Gray at 9:10 p.m. Eastern time. Gray stated that the board would discuss ACB staff members' salary levels, establish dates and times for future board conference calls, and other items as necessary. He then called upon Donna Seliger to call the roll. All members were present except for second vice president Mitch Pomerantz. Melanie Brunson and Jim Olsen were also present.

Gray then called upon budget committee chairman Brian Charlson to present the committee's report and recommendations regarding staff salary levels. Charlson began his report by indicating that, pursuant to a resolution adopted by the membership at the 2004 convention, the committee had met and was presenting three separate options to meet the directive contained in the resolution referred to above, ranging in additional cost to ACB in the current 2004 budget year between $5,226.25 and $10,372.85.

Brian Charlson moved that the board accept the budget committee's report. The motion was seconded and adopted.

Ed Bradley moved that the board adopt Option Three presented by the budget committee with two amendments -- first, that the amount of discretionary funds authorized for the executive director's utilization for one-time employee performance bonuses be raised from $2,000 to $4,000, and second, that the overall cost to ACB for this modified option be raised from $5,226.25 to $7,226.25. After some discussion, the motion was adopted by a unanimous roll call vote with all board members present voting in the affirmative. The modified Option Three provides that all ACB staff members except the executive director be granted a 3.1 percent salary level increase retroactive only to July 1, 2004, and that in addition, an amount of up to $4,000 be authorized for the executive director to award one-time special performance bonuses to those staff members who, in her judgment, have been performing at a level above and beyond the level required by such staffers' job descriptions and responsibilities. Such performance award bonuses are not intended in any way to change the recipients' established basic salary levels.

Gray then indicated that he wished to schedule the remaining conference calls for Sept. 1, Oct. 6, and Oct. 12. The board agreed to this schedule.

A discussion then ensued regarding potential candidates to replace RSA Commissioner Joanne Wilson should Senator Kerry win the presidential election.

Brian Charlson moved that the board direct the ACB president to appoint a special ad hoc search committee -- a majority of whose members should be members of the board -- which would be charged with the responsibility of seeking out highly qualified and successful career achieving individuals who in general would favor, support and advocate for the rights of people who are blind or visually impaired as potential nominees, and gaining the consent of such potential nominees to have their names submitted for possible appointment to important positions in state government or in the federal government. The motion was seconded and approved.

Brian Charlson moved that the board instruct and authorize the resource development committee to, at the point in time when the committee has in hand firm written commitments for 1,500 units of the talking thermometer key chains, go forward and order the minimum order of 2,500 talking thermometer key chains. The motion was seconded and adopted.

Gray then offered the board a tentative invitation to meet in San Francisco, Calif., to hold a board retreat, the dates and times of which would have to be determined at a later date.

The call recessed at 11:10 p.m. Eastern time.

September 1 Meeting

Gray reconvened the fall meeting at 9:05 p.m. Eastern time. He began by reviewing the items remaining on the agenda. Gray then called upon Seliger to call the roll. All board members were in attendance except for Ardis Bazyn and Alan Beatty. Melanie Brunson and Terry Pacheco were also in attendance.

Gray then called upon Melanie Brunson to give her report. She began by telling the board that she had earlier that day participated in a disability awareness awards ceremony coordinated by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) at the Republican Party's national convention in New York City where, as one of 17 participating disability rights organizations, ACB had presented a special appreciation award to Rep. Bill Young of Florida in recognition of his many years of efforts to promote and protect blindness-related federal programs through his work on the House Appropriations Committee. Brunson also reported that ACB had attempted to present a similar award in late July during the Democratic Party's national convention in Boston to Rep. Lane Evans of Illinois for his efforts in getting both chambers of Congress to adopt his resolution urging all state motor vehicle drivers' licensing authorities to provide training material to all driver's license applicants regarding their respective state's White Cane Safety Laws and sensitivity to the use of white canes and guide dogs by blind or visually impaired pedestrians. Evans, unfortunately, was not able to be present at the awards ceremony in Boston, so the national office staff is working with Evans' staff to present the award to him at a ceremony to be held in Washington, D.C., around Oct. 15 (White Cane Safety Day). She also mentioned that John Kelly has recently been employed by Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D).

M.J. Schmitt reported that Dan Lee, who presently works at the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind, has been nominated by President Bush for one of the public member seats on the Committee for Purchase from the Blind and Otherwise Severely Disabled (the JWOD committee). It was also reported that former ACB president LeRoy Saunders may be interested in seeking reappointment by President Bush to his public member seat on the JWOD committee.

Gray then reported that he had written a memorandum to ACB's primary staff employees regarding the budget tracking problem. The budget and accounting software program used in ACB's Minneapolis office is seriously outdated and needs to be upgraded. The most recent version of the software program currently being used in the Minneapolis office will cost ACB approximately $3,500 to purchase and install.

Paul Edwards moved that the president and the chairman of the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services board consult with each other in an effort to develop a joint recommendation regarding the budget tracking software program issues to be brought to the ACB board at its next meeting for consideration and disposition. The motion was approved.

Election of the Budget Committee

Carla Ruschival nominated Brian Charlson, who was elected to the committee by acclamation.

Mitch Pomerantz nominated Ruschival. Brian Charlson nominated Bazyn. On a roll call vote, Ruschival received nine votes, and Bazyn received four votes, with two members absent. Those voting for Ruschival were: Bradley, Keith, Miller, Pomerantz, Ruschival, Schmitt, Seliger, Towers, and Trott. Those voting for Bazyn were: Charlson, Edwards, Sheehan, and Soule.

Oral Miller nominated Bazyn. Paul Edwards nominated Pat Sheehan. On a roll call vote, Bazyn received eight votes and Sheehan received five votes, with two members being absent. Those voting for Bazyn were: Bradley, Keith, Miller, Pomerantz, Ruschival, Seliger, Soule, and Towers. Those voting for Sheehan were: Charlson, Edwards, Schmitt, Sheehan, and Trott.

Election of the Executive Committee

As provided for in the constitution and bylaws, the executive committee is composed of the president as chairman, with two members to be elected from among the officers and two members elected from among the directors.

Pomerantz nominated Schmitt, who accepted the nomination and was then elected by consensus among the officers.

Seliger nominated Edwards. Edwards returned the favor by nominating Seliger. On a roll call vote of the officers, Edwards received three votes and Seliger received two votes, with one officer absent. Those voting for Edwards were: Pomerantz, Schmitt, and Seliger. Those voting for Seliger were Edwards and Gray.

Bradley nominated Ruschival, who declined. Ruschival nominated Miller, who accepted and was elected by acclamation among the directors to serve on the executive committee.

Towers nominated Trott. Charlson nominated Soule. On a roll call vote of the directors, Trott received five votes, Soule received four votes, with one director being absent. Those voting for Trott were: Bradley, Miller, Ruschival, Towers, and Trott. Those voting for Soule were: Charlson, Keith, Sheehan, and Soule.

Soule reported that she has been doing some research in hopes of finding a satisfactory location in the Saint Louis vicinity for holding the board retreat. Gray and Seliger reported that a possibility for the retreat was for the board to meet with ACB members in Des Moines.

Ruschival moved that the board hold a day of training as a retreat on the Friday immediately before the midyear meeting to be held in Las Vegas. The motion was seconded and adopted.

Gray announced to the board that he was planning to be out of the country for about a week during the next 10 days. During his absence, M.J. Schmitt would be in charge of ACB matters requiring immediate or emergency action. Brunson reported that she is beginning to implement certain suggestions and recommendations made to her by the office review committee. She also reported the gratitude of the national office staff in Washington, D.C., for the retroactive general salary increase mandated by the resolution adopted by the membership at the 2004 convention in Birmingham, Ala. The meeting recessed at 10:53 p.m. Eastern time.

October 6 Meeting

Gray reconvened the meeting via telephone conference call at 9:06 p.m. Eastern time. He asked Donna Seliger to call the roll. All members were in attendance except for Naomi Soule. Melanie Brunson and Jim Olsen were also in attendance, along with Ralph Sanders.

Gray began by giving background and reviewing how the direct mailing proposal had come to the board. Ralph Sanders reported that he has been very impressed by this company's past record of success in working with non- profit organizations such as ACB. Sanders then brought Wayne Modica from A.K.A. Direct onto the call. Sanders explained that because the list of recent contributors to ACB which A.K.A. Direct had hoped to use in its direct mail fund-raising campaign could not at this time be obtained, the initial proposal from A.K.A. Direct had been substantially modified, making the revised proposal less lucrative for ACB. Modica spoke about his experience in running and coordinating direct mail fund-raising campaigns for non-profit entities which had contracted for consultative services and support from A.K.A. Direct. A number of board members asked Modica questions. Then Modica and Sanders went through the revised proposal section by section. At 10:40 p.m., Modica and Sanders left the call.

Charlson moved that the board go into executive session to discuss the revised direct mail fund-raising proposal from A.K.A. Direct, with Brunson and Olsen being requested to stay on the call. On a voice vote, the board adopted the motion.

At 11:20 p.m., the board resumed its open session. Gray reported that during the executive session, the board had adopted two separate motions. The first of these motions was moved by Charlson, that the board should amend the previously adopted 2004 ACB budget to reflect an expenditure item of approximately $23,000 to fund an initial test mailing under the contract that we have been discussing with A.K.A. Direct, and to amend the budget to reflect a new revenue line item of approximately $23,000 of anticipated income from the A.K.A. Direct test mailing with these expenditure and revenue items to be reviewed again at the time the board considers and adopts the 2005 budget. On a roll call vote, all members present voted in the affirmative, with two members absent. The 2004 budget was amended in conformity with the first motion adopted in the executive session.

The second motion considered and disposed of in executive session was a motion by Edwards that the board choose a three-person committee of board members to serve as a liaison committee to monitor and oversee the test mailing conducted by A.K.A. Direct and the resulting contributions derived by ACB from that test mailing and to jointly make their well-considered recommendations to the board prior to the midyear meeting to be held in Las Vegas, where the progress to date of the direct mail fund-raising project is scheduled to be reviewed further by the board. On a roll call vote, the motion was adopted with seven members voting in the affirmative, five members voting in the negative, and with one board member abstaining. Those voting in the affirmative were: Bazyn, Beatty, Charlson, Edwards, Schmitt, Sheehan, and Towers. Those voting in the negative were: Bradley, Miller, Pomerantz, Ruschival and Trott. Seliger abstained.

The meeting recessed at 11:30 p.m. Eastern time.

October 12 Meeting

Gray called the final session of the meeting to order at 9:15 p.m. Eastern time. He then called upon Donna Seliger to call the roll. All members were present except for Bazyn, Beatty, and Towers. Melanie Brunson and Jim Olsen were also in attendance.

Gray began by reviewing with the board the remaining items for consideration on the agenda. He also reported that the order which ACB had placed for talking thermometer keychains with a supplier in China have not yet been received, and that several affiliates are getting more than a little antsy in waiting for their keychain allotment to be delivered to them. Schmitt reported that she is organizing and coordinating a "12 days to Saint Patrick's Day" raffle fund-raising project which may well net some $2,900 in income. Tickets for the raffle are $5 apiece. Winners will be determined by the pick-three Illinois state lottery numbers, March 6-17. (See the February 2005 issue for more details.)

Schmitt also reported that she'd had a personal conversation with Dan Lee, who is campaigning to win appointment by President Bush to one of the public member seats on the Committee for Purchase. She also reported that former president LeRoy Saunders has decided not to seek reappointment.

The matter of the right or lack thereof of affiliates to engage in their own publicity activities during national conventions was then discussed at some length as a result of some publicity and media relations activities engaged in by one of ACB's special-interest affiliates during the 2004 convention in Birmingham, Ala. While the affiliate involved has committed itself to abide by publicity and media relations policies developed by the convention committee, the subject matter surrounding this issue is still subject to both intentional and unintentional abuse.

Pomerantz moved that the board instruct the convention committee to consult with the public relations committee to come up with a joint written policy statement regarding affiliates' publicity and media relations activities during national conventions, which will be presented to the board prior to the midyear meeting in Las Vegas for consideration and disposition by the board. The board adopted the motion by a voice vote.

Olsen then told the board that ACB had received a donation of an ownership interest in a time-share condominium at a resort location in Mexico. Under the terms of the donation, ACB, in return for paying the annual maintenance fee for the condominium, receives the ownership interest in the condominium from 2004 through 2025.

Charlson moved that ACB accept the donation of the ownership interest in the time-share condominium. The motion was seconded and approved.

Schmitt moved that ACB conduct a scholarship raffle during 2005 similar to those which ACB has conducted in past years, that this fund- raising project be assigned to the resource development committee, and that the per-ticket price for tickets in this raffle be reduced to $50. The board approved the motion on a voice vote.

Bradley moved that the board meeting be recessed in order to enter an ACBES membership meeting. The board approved the motion on a voice vote.

When the ACB board meeting reconvened, Brunson reported that the dates for the ACB affiliate presidents' meeting and legislative seminar to be conducted in Washington, D.C., are Feb. 19-22, 2005. Bradley reported that he has been selected as Houston, Texas' disabled advocate of the year, and that he will be honored on October 19 by the Houston City Council.

Brunson reported that Dr. Elton Moore for the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for the Blind (RRTC) at Mississippi State University wants to present a pre-convention educational training session in conjunction with the national convention this summer in Las Vegas. This program is aimed at rehabilitation counselors and rehabilitation teachers who need continuing professional training in how best to serve the service needs of their clients. A special ad hoc committee will coordinate and work with Moore and his staff on how to integrate this program into convention activities.

Edwards stated that the National Accreditation Council for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) wants to send a number of representatives to the 2005 convention with the goal of recruiting and training ACB members to serve as on-site NAC evaluation team members. Pomerantz requested that he be provided with a letter in writing on ACB letterhead inviting Mayor Oscar Goodman of Las Vegas, Nev., to be a speaker on the 2005 general session program. Soule reported that the Missouri Council of the Blind has brought a lawsuit against the Missouri Division of Family Services because that agency has been in an unauthorized manner taking money out of the Missouri Blind Pension Fund and then using the money withdrawn for general operations purposes in violation of both federal and Missouri state law.

The meeting adjourned at 11 p.m. Eastern time.

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