by Charles S.P. Hodge

President Chris Gray called the mid-year board of directors meeting to order at 9:05 a.m. on March 10, 2007, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis. Secretary Donna Seliger called the roll; all board members were present except for Naomi Soule. Executive director Melanie Brunson and comptroller Lane Waters were also present. Guests were asked to identify themselves, and there were a good number of guests in attendance. Gray then reviewed the proposed meeting agenda. Some items were rearranged in order to accommodate individuals' schedules. Following approval of the amended agenda, Paul Edwards then moved to approve the minutes of the January 4, 2007 conference call board meeting.

Gray began his president's report by calling upon Nona Graves of Milwaukee, Wis., to bring the board up-to-date on some important developments in her state. Graves reported that while ACB's current affiliate in Wisconsin, the Badger Association of the Blind, had paid dues and would cast affiliate votes at the upcoming national convention, at the end of the convention, the association intends to surrender its affiliate charter in favor of a newly organized Wisconsin affiliate. She explained that the Midwest Association of the Blind, a well-established organization with the potential for local chapters throughout the state, was in the process of changing its name to the American Council of the Blind of Wisconsin (ACBW), and that the ACBW would be applying for a charter to become the new affiliate in Wisconsin. She asked the board to approve ACBW's charter petition. Gray indicated that the ACBW's charter application, when received, would likely be taken up at the board's pre-convention meeting.

Gray also reported that the National Library Service (NLS) will, by the middle to end of 2008, be introducing digital talking book players, and that cassette books will not be produced after 2016. Mitch Pomerantz interjected that he recently had the opportunity to look at two distinctly different NLS digital players. One player is more sophisticated, and the other is very simple in design and is intended for the use of senior citizens. Paul Edwards raised the matter of his unjustified removal from the NLS committee dealing with the design and development of digital talking book players. Gray suggested that Edwards, Kim Charlson and himself form an ad hoc committee to write a document regarding this matter to be presented to NLS and shared with the board. He also reported that the advocacy services committee has met and made a decision regarding a matter coming to the committee from the Randolph- Sheppard Vendors of America (RSVA), but indicated that he would not go into further detail until Melanie Brunson had the opportunity to discuss the matter with the board.

Finally, Gray told the board that Joel Snider had asked for authority to represent ACB at two separate meetings, one with film makers and the other with DVD makers, which would take place at the CSUN conference in Los Angeles. Snider intended to promote the inclusion of audio description on movie DVDs. The board accepted the president's report, then turned its attention to the report from the national office made by Melanie Brunson.

Brunson reported that Day Al-Mohamed, the director of legislative and governmental affairs, had tendered her resignation to pursue another employment opportunity. Al-Mohamed's last day with ACB would be March 23. The affiliate presidents' meeting and legislative seminar went well, with members from many states participating. There probably will not be any comprehensive Randolph-Sheppard Act legislation in the 2007 legislative session, as the emphasis is and will continue to be on Iraq and other high- priority legislative issues. A policy statement was to be put together by a group with representatives from the Department of Education, the Department of Defense and the Committee for Purchase. The policy statement was intended to resolve perceived problems between the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) program and the Randolph-Sheppard program. The resulting policy statement was not especially balanced or kind to the Randolph-Sheppard program. A group of organizations has formed an alliance, the Blind Entrepreneurial Alliance (BEA), which has hired a high-powered, experienced lobbyist to work on its behalf. Organizations participating in the BEA include the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), ACB, the Blind Merchants' Guild, and RSVA, along with other interested parties.

Brunson reported that the Hawaii Blind Vendors are currently involved in litigation. The vendors have not been able to collect funds from certain vending machines on county and state government locations since the county of Honolulu and the state of Hawaii have respectively taken such revenues for themselves. The vendors brought a suit against the county and state in the state courts, but lost their case on appeal before the Hawaii Supreme Court. The vendors are now preparing to bring the case before the United States Supreme Court. Bob Humphreys, counsel for the vendors, has asked ACB to file its own amicus brief or to join RSVA's brief in support of the vendors. Brunson stated that both the Washington and Minneapolis offices have been working hard to streamline operations and to evaluate expenditures to find where additional savings can be achieved. She reported that she has begun compiling a group of documents intended to become part of a board handbook.

Following acceptance of Brunson's report, Ray Campbell moved that the board authorize moving forward on the recommendation from the advocacy services committee. He stated that if it could be done within the tight time constraints confronting us, ACB should file its own amicus curiae brief supporting the Hawaii Blind Vendors; if not, ACB should join RSVA's brief. On a voice vote, the motion carried.

The board next turned its attention to an update on the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services (ACBES) from Michael Garrett, chairperson of the ACBES board. Garrett stated that ACBES had met its initial budgetary commitment to ACB through 2006. He added that through the adoption of new management strategies and updated management in certain stores, an increase in profits has already been seen through the first two months of 2007. Lane Waters, ACBES' comptroller, reviewed ACBES' financial reports. He stated that during his tenure with ACBES, he has been able to make savings in certain expense items such as property insurance and workman's compensation expenses, to name just a few. Waters stated further that through positive attitude adjustment training and management changes in certain stores, the thrift stores are doing much better overall. He also reported that ACBES has recently purchased six 2004 International trucks for use by the thrift stores. The trucks are painted bright yellow with black lettering and the round ACB logo on them. Each truck also has prominently displayed the telephone number of the thrift store in its local area. Carla Ruschival moved that the board express its appreciation to the staff in the Minneapolis office throughout 2006 for their steadfast persistence and assistance.

After acceptance of the ACBES report, the board turned its attention to a discussion of a survey that had been published in "The Braille Forum" regarding the accessible paper currency issue. Melanie Brunson read the survey questions published in "The Braille Forum." M.J. Schmitt then reported that the initial response level to the survey was disappointing, but that she and Brunson had not had a chance just before this meeting to evaluate later responses to the survey which had been received more recently. Schmitt indicated that she and Brunson intended to make a more up-to-date report at the next board meeting.

Mitch Pomerantz then reported on the National Telecommuting Institute (NTI) issue. An ACB member had applied for a job with NTI, but was turned down. The individual then contacted Linda Dardarian and Lainey Feingold about her employment discrimination complaint against NTI on account of her blindness. Feingold wrote NTI a detailed 14-page letter laying out the complainant's employment discrimination claim. NTI sent back two separate letters in response to the Feingold letter; one was addressed to the board, indicating a willingness to negotiate the claim while making no commitments regarding the matter, the other from an NTI attorney suggesting that lawyers are expensive and that ACB therefore did not have to involve lawyers in this issue. The board accepted the NTI report.

During lunch, David Trott, chairperson of the resource development committee, made two announcements, one that the annual raffle would be offered again, and that the Cancun, Mexico time share auction would also be conducted again this year. Trott then introduced Lou Abbott, who discussed the benefits of the product lines offered by Melaleuca Inc. Abbott described the many benefits of Melaleuca's products, and he outlined a potential partnership arrangement between Melaleuca and ACB to develop a network of ACB members as preferred customers with a percentage of all sales and orders from ACB members being returned to ACB.

After lunch, the board entered into an executive session to discuss personnel and other sensitive and confidential matters. When the board returned, Gray reported for the record that the only action taken by the board in the closed session involved a very positive increase in the compensation level of one of ACB's employees that would be reflected in the proposed budget to be acted upon by the board later in this meeting.

Trott then continued the resource development committee report by indicating that the committee had voted to investigate the Melaleuca proposal. Ed Bradley moved to accept the committee's recommendation by investigating Melaleuca's intention with respect to making its web site and product catalog accessible to its envisioned network of blind and visually impaired customers. The resulting vote was 9-5 against; the motion failed. Those voting in favor were Ed Bradley, Mike Godino, Mitch Pomerantz, Pat Sheehan and David Trott; those opposed were Ray Campbell, Brenda Dillon, Paul Edwards, Billie Jean Keith, Oral Miller, Carla Ruschival, M.J. Schmitt, Donna Seliger and Jeff Thom.

Next on the agenda was the budget committee report, presented by Mike Godino and Lane Waters. Godino reviewed the proposed 2007 annual budget line item by line item. Paul Edwards moved to increase the income item from the monthly monetary support (MMS) program from $25,000 to $30,000. The motion carried. Edwards then moved to adopt the revenue side of the proposed budget. The board adopted it.

Edwards moved to increase the meetings and training line item by $2,000 to make a new total of $3,000. The motion passed. Thom moved to increase the miscellaneous line item by $3,000, thereby making a new total of $6,000. The motion carried. Edwards then moved to adopt the expense side of the proposed budget. The board adopted it.

Mitch Pomerantz then moved to recess the meeting to reconvene at 9 a.m. on March 11. The meeting went into recess at 5:45 p.m.

The meeting reconvened at 9:15 a.m. on March 11. Seliger called the roll; all board members except for Naomi Soule were present. Executive director Melanie Brunson and comptroller Lane Waters were also present. Carla Ruschival then presented an update on the 2007 national convention. She announced that those attending the banquet this year will have four entr‚e choices from among which to choose: beef, chicken, fish and vegetarian. Ruschival indicated that several students from the Indiana School for the Blind have raised $10,000 to enable them to attend the convention and to participate in the Youth Activity Center. She also reported that both convention hotels are planning to have their in-room information put into braille, and to have their information packets available for convention attendees at the time of check-in. She indicated that one-third of sleeping rooms and some meetings and functions during the convention will be located in or held at the Millennium Hotel. The board accepted Ruschival's report.

Ray Campbell, chairman of the constitution and bylaws committee, then reviewed a document proposing to streamline Bylaw 6 on standing committees. The board discussed the current bylaw. Some board members raised concerns as to whether a potentially revised Bylaw 6 should include only so-called "required or mandated" committees. The board made no decision on the matter other than agreeing by consensus that the committee should go forward with its work on this issue.

Charlie Hodge then presented the board of publications' report. He discussed a recommendation from the BOP that a new award, to be named the Hollis K. Liggett Braille Free Press Award, be established. This award -- if established -- would be presented by the BOP to promote best journalistic practices and excellence in writing in publications of ACB's state and special-interest affiliates. Hodge then moved that the board establish the Hollis K. Liggett Braille Free Press Award. When a voice vote proved inconclusive, the secretary called the roll. Seven votes were in favor and seven votes in opposition. Gray then cast his tie-breaking vote in the affirmative, thereby establishing the Hollis K. Liggett Braille Free Press Award. Those voting in favor were Ray Campbell, Brenda Dillon, Chris Gray, Mike Godino, Carla Ruschival, Donna Seliger, Pat Sheehan and Jeff Thom. Those opposed were Ed Bradley, Paul Edwards, Billie Jean Keith, Oral Miller, Mitch Pomerantz, M.J. Schmitt and David Trott.

Next, M.J. Schmitt presented a report on the American Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment. She read the recommendations of the governance subcommittee -- which had subsequently been affirmatively recommended by the provisional American Center Board -- for the board's review and approval. Ed Bradley moved that the American Center's permanent board of directors should be constituted in the following manner: two members of the ACB board of directors to be elected by that board, two other members to be elected by the ACB board, the ACB president as well as a member to be appointed by the ACB president, two members of the current provisional board chosen by its members, and one additional member to be elected by the other eight members. On a voice vote, the motion carried. Paul Edwards then suggested a friendly amendment clarifying that the two members to be elected by the ACB board in addition to two board members should be ACB members, but not necessarily members of the board of directors. Schmitt accepted the amendment, and it was approved. Edwards then moved to accept the report on the American Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment project. The motion carried.

Ed Bradley, chairperson of the vehicle donation task force, presented a number of recommendations for the board's review and approval. He moved that the task force's first recommendation, involving the establishment of a committee on vehicle donation, be adopted; its duties would be to monitor the vehicle donation program, and to make annual reports to the board regarding the agreement between ACB and the Vehicle Donation Processing Center (VDPC). The proposed new committee shall be comprised as follows: the ACB president or his/her designee, the executive director, and one board member to be appointed by the president, plus two state affiliate presidents chosen by the ACB president from among those state affiliates currently having agreements with the VDPC. The motion passed. Bradley then moved to approve the task force's second recommendation, to establish a 50-50 revenue-sharing plan for vehicle donations generated through Internet advertising from states having existing vehicle donation programs. Carla Ruschival moved to refer this recommendation to the resource development committee for its recommendation, which should be brought back to the board no later than May 15, 2007. The motion to refer passed on a voice vote.

M.J. Schmitt moved to accept the third recommendation, that the monthly reports generated on vehicle donations made to ACB through the Internet be provided to all committee members. The motion carried on a voice vote. Paul Edwards moved to accept the fourth recommendation, that no changes be made to the vehicle donation program with respect to vehicle donations made to ACB through newspaper and/or radio advertising. On a voice vote, the motion carried.

Bradley then reported on behalf of the Durward K. McDaniel Fund Committee that the committee has in its possession a cassette tape made by Durward McDaniel himself, and the McDaniel committee intends to sell cassette editions of "People of Vision" with the McDaniel cassette tape included for $9.95 above the suggested retail price of $30.95 for the cassette edition of ACB's history, with the additional funds going to the McDaniel Fund. After some discussion and suggestions from board members, Bradley moved that additional copies of the cassette edition of "People of Vision" including the tape made by Durward McDaniel be sold for $40, with the additional $9.05 going to the McDaniel Fund. The motion carried.

With no further business, the meeting adjourned at noon.

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