February 20, 2009, Board Meeting Minutes

Mid Year Meeting of the Board of Directors of the American Council of the Blind
February 20, 2009

The Mid Year Board of Directors meeting of the American Council of the Blind, held at the Crystal City Airport Holiday Inn Arlington, VA, was convened by President Mitch Pomerantz at 9:00 a.m. EST. Board members present were: Mitch Pomerantz, Kim Charlson, Brenda Dillon, Marlaina Lieberg, Mike Godino, Christopher Gray, Ray Campbell, Berl Colley, Marsha Farrow, Michael Garrett, Billie Jean Keith, Carla Ruschival, Patrick Sheehan, David Trott, Cammie Vloedman, and Paul Edwards. Jeff Thom joined by phone after the call of the role. Staff present was Melanie Brunson Executive Director, Lane Waters Controller, and Dena Wilson Director of Fund Raising. Jeff Thom joined the meeting after roll call by telephone, as his job precluded him from attending in person. There were approximately 10 guests present.

Godino moved approval of the agenda, Lieberg seconded and the motion carried.

Trott moved approval of the Fall Board meeting minutes; Campbell seconded and the motion carried.

President’s report. Pomerantz reported that ACB has received a letter from the Blind Citizens Front of Shrilanka, thanking us for the $1,000 contribution we made last fall. He indicated that his friend and journalist Jean Parker would be doing a story on this organization and will be working with Chrissie Cochrane of ACB Radio. Edwards shared that the Florida Council contributed funding to help pay some of Parker’s expenses.

Pomerantz has followed-up with the President of ACB of Colorado, regarding previously expressed concerns involving that affiliate. He will meet during the President’s weekend with the ACBC President.

Pomerantz and Brunson have compiled a list of documents they believe should constitute a Board Handbook. These documents include the constitution and bylaws, committee list, president’s list, ACB employee handbook, investment policy, reasonable accommodations policy, and board member reimbursement policy. After discussion, Pomerantz asked Charlson to work directly with Brunson and Dillon to develop a document which describes the duties and expectations of Board members. He requested the draft of this document by June 1, 2009. Edwards will work on this effort as well, representing the BOP.

Proposed new ACB long-range plan. Pomerantz requested Board members consider some notion about what kind of training we may need to become more effective in our role on this Board, and discuss this on the Board list. This likely would lead to a training opportunity at the Fall Board Meeting. Brunson and Sheehan will disseminate Braille and electronic copies of the long-range plan. Board members will also receive the Affiliate and National Organization Expectations document. Edwards moved and Trott seconded acceptance of the President’s report, and that motion carried.

Staff Report. Brunson reviewed logistics of the hotel and both the President’s meeting and legislative seminar. A new receptionist has been hired; she is visually impaired and very interested in working with ACB. The Washington Connection is now available in Spanish. During discussion regarding how to motivate affiliates to become involved legislatively, Pomerantz indicated that every Board member is responsible for motivating affiliates to respond and become more involved. He requested Brunson or Eric Bridges draft an article for the forum on the extreme importance of contacting the legislators from home. Brunson shared that Braille copies of People of Vision have been donated to schools for the blind around the United States.

Waters reported that the Minneapolis office is up and running. Accessibility problems for a visually impaired employee have been resolved. A part-time receptionist who is visually impaired has been hired. Waters feels confident that with recent staff changes, the over-all competency of the staff will increase, freeing him up to work more effectively. The office is now fully staffed. Lieberg moved and Dillon seconded the acceptance of the staff report, and that motion carried.

Direct Mail Program. Waters reported that ACB received a report from the direct mail contractor which was not accurate. An inquiry was made and after a couple of weeks, the contractor responded that they made an error in the report.

Dena Wilson recommended that ACB continue its direct mail program. She further recommended creating a database of major donors.

A motion to authorize Wilson and Brunson to enter into discussion with Paul and Partners with the possible conclusion of a contract to handle our direct mail program was moved by Trott and seconded by Campbell. After discussion, the motion was withdrawn and instead, Pomerantz requested that Wilson provide the Board with more information from bids received, and audit analysis with regard to AKA and the program over-all. Campbell moved acceptance of this report; Farrow seconded and the motion carried with two nay votes.

Board of Publications. Edwards gave a report of the Board of Publications. While the BOP is involved in many projects, there are four key ones.

1. Revision of the editorial policy document.

2. Website redesign.

3. ACB Radio transition to a new reporting agency, which is recently completed.

4. Ongoing analysis of the Braille Forum.

The BOP endorses the recommendation of Colley to begin to develop an oral history. Colley is working with other ACB members who produce audio to find ways to ensure the audio is the highest quality possible.

ACB Radio intends to begin a program called All Aboard, generally introducing each Board member through a regular program on the radio. Lieberg will be hosting this program. Godino moved acceptance of the report, Dillon seconded and the motion carried.

ACBES. Garrett reported that most stores are doing well, and issues which exist with other stores are being addressed. Each store manager has been presented with a goal-oriented program and feels comfortable with expectations therein. Waters added that our stores do well where we can get name recognition, but some of our stores are located in high priced advertisement markets. Thus, each store must be individually examined to determine what creates success. Edwards moved and Godino seconded the report be accepted, and that motion carried.

Treasurer’s Report. Year-end revenue Inflows: $1,531,550.00; outflows: $1,144,105.00, leaving an excess of $387446.00. Campbell moved acceptance of this report, Colley seconded, and the motion carried.

2009 Budget. Total projected inflows: $1,074,056.00. During a line by line review of the proposed budget, Gray raised concerns that the projected figure of Legacies, Memorials and Bequests of $175,000.00 was too high. Ruschival moved and Gray seconded to reduce this figure from $175,000.00 to $150,000.00; the motion did not carry.

Thom moved that the projected revenue for audio description program be reduced from $133,000 to $100,000; the motion died for lack of a second. Ruschival requested a review of the proposed figures. Joel Snyder, project director, reviewed the project budget line-byline.

Edwards moved to adopt the revenue side of the 2009 budget; the motion was seconded by Trott and carried.

Total Projected Outflows: $1164961.00. Colley moved and Dillon seconded the motion to add an income line of $1000 as a negative expense revenue figure under the walk-a-thon line item and that motion carried.

The budget carries a net deficit of -$90,905.00. Edwards moved adoption of expense side of the budget; the motion was seconded by Colley. A roll call vote defeated this motion with 11 no votes, 2 yes votes and one abstention.

Ruschival moved and Farrow seconded that we refer the expense side of the budget to the Budget Committee to recommend a balanced 2009 budget and to bring this recommendation back to this board at the teleconference call continuance of this meeting. The motion carried.

Edwards moved reconsideration of the previous motion to adopt the revenue side of the budget; Sheehan seconded that motion. The motion failed.

Audio Description Project. Snyder reported that he is negotiating with Shout Factory, which distributes movies electronically, for ACB to receive proceeds from the audio described DVD of the Miracle Worker. We are applying for a grant of $500,000 from the Department of Education to provide description to TV stations who agree to accept it.

The meeting recessed at 5:15 p.m.

President Pomerantz reconvened the 2009 Mid Year Board Meeting on February 21 at 8:30 a.m. At the call of the roll, all board members were present except Thom.

Brunson gave a brief update on the status of ACB’s litigation involving accessible formats and Social Security. The case is now in discovery, and ACB has provided documentation.

Ruschival gave a convention update. Margarine Beeman will handle sponsorships this year; Ruschival publicly thanked Dillon for her past involvement and success with gathering sponsorships. She reported that while initially, our hotel for 2011 was $84.00, the room rate will be $87.00 to cover the cost of a resort fee which the hotel charges. This fee had been missed initially, and is actually a $5.00 fee. The hotel, however, agreed to raise the cost of our rooms by only $3.00 to defray this cost. Trott moved and Campbell seconded a motion to accept this report, and that motion carried.

Membership Committee. Ardis Bazyn reported that our Connecticut affiliate will be reporting 13 members this year. She is optimistic that this affiliate will continue. However, our Idaho affiliate is still struggling. The individual who expressed interest in leading the effort to develop an Idaho affiliate has taken a job in another state. Lieberg asked Bazyn if the Committee had a recommendation regarding Idaho for the Board; she said there was none at this time. Lieberg stated and Gray concurred that we should be going into Idaho to try to develop other leaders, not waiting for one to come to us. Edwards moved that the Board defer any action regarding the Idaho affiliate until the post convention Board meeting; the motion was seconded by Godino and carried. A motion by Campbell seconded by Trott to accept the Membership Committee Report, carried.

DKM Committee. Eight recommendations were presented to the Board regarding the Durward K. McDaniel First Timer Program. Lieberg moved adoption of the proposed recommendations, with a request to change the qualifying age from 21 to 18 years of age. Vloedman seconded, and the motion carried.

The Committee next proposed a set of expectations for DKM First Timers. Ruschival requested the Committee develop a process to make convention registration of DKM first-timers smoother. Ruschival moved the adoption of these proposed expectations and responsibilities of DKM winners; Gray seconded, and the motion carried. Gray moved and Trott seconded acceptance of the DKM Report, and the motion carried.

Database Management Project. Gray reported that the database management system ACB currently uses is extremely out of date. He has located software, however, which will work in all operating systems including Linux, Windows and the Mac operating system. The software is open source. The database structure is now defined, and all of the back end is in place to manage membership records and other types of records. The next stage is to develop the mock-user interface, including screens with graphics; he is looking for someone to assist in this endeavor. Once this is completed, a couple of large and small affiliates will be asked to pilot a project using the database to certify their lists which they submit on paper. He hopes to have the project completed and useable by 2010. During discussion, Pomerantz requested a timeline for completion, to include a date by which beta testing would begin and end. Gray agreed. Pomerantz advised that this item would be on the agenda for the Orlando President’s meeting. Edwards moved and Farrow seconded acceptance of this report; the motion carried.

Fitness Equipment Equity Task Force. Ken Stuart reported that the Taskforce meets monthly. They are developing a list of specific features which would make equipment safely and easily useable by blind and visually impaired people. They have developed a list of manufactures who will be contacted for input and dialog regarding these features. Trott moved and Godino seconded acceptance of this report; the motion carried.

Legislative Leadership Conference for Students. The taskforce, established at the fall Board meeting and chaired by Garrett, met and presented a report in which they suggest this conference would likely require a budget of some $63,000. There would be one invited student per state initially. A theme might be”How Can I Change The World.” Garrett reviewed a potential seminar agenda. Board members provided feedback. Edwards suggested that involving RSA at the Federal level might be a potential source for locating students and possibly some funding. Campbell moved and Dillon seconded acceptance of this report and the motion carried.

Edwards moved that this Board authorize continued expenditure at 2008 levels between now and the time the 2009 budget is adopted; Godino seconded and the motion carried.

Officer Liaison Reports. Officers next gave brief reports describing activities of the committees with which each liaises. All committees are functioning well and programs are moving along.

The teleconference continuance of this meeting was scheduled for March 11, 2009 at 5 P.M. Pacific.

Trott moved and Godino seconded that the Board move into recess until March 11, 2009. The motion carried and the Board recessed at 10:45 A.M.

The Mid Year Board of Directors Meeting reconvened on March 11 at 5:10 PM PDT. At the call of the roll, Board members present were Pomerantz, Charlson, Dillon, Lieberg, Godino, Gray, Colley, Farrow, Garrett, Sheehan, Thom and Trott. Board members not present were Campbell, Keith, Ruschival and Vloedman. Ruschival joined the meeting during the discussion of the agenda.

During discussion of the agenda, Gray expressed his concern that no bid was requested from AKA when researching direct mail handlers; he felt that the money we may save will be eaten up by moving databases to a new contractor, and that AKA should have been given an opportunity to bid. Trott concurred. Pomerantz suggested the Board should still hear Dena Wilson’s report and after so doing, could make a decision; Gray agreed. Trott moved acceptance of the agenda, Garrett seconded and the motion carried.

Pomerantz reported that he received a request from Mark Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, for ACB to join a coalition of blindness-based agencies and other disability rights organizations whose mission is to increase public awareness which may result in a change to have enabled the read aloud feature of books on the Amazon Kindle II, which the Author’s Guild has not supported and Amazon has disabled. Charlson moved that ACB become a part of this coalition and actively support this issue; Lieberg seconded; during discussion, Edwards reminded the Board that the needs of people with low vision must not be forgotten. The motion carried.

At the conclusion of this discussion, Vloedman and Campbell joined the meeting.

Review of the expense side of the 2009 Budget. Godino reviewed the expense side of the budget line-by-line. During discussion of reimbursements and stipends, Edwards moved that from March 11, 2009, and until further notice, stipends for the Board of Directors and the Board of Publications be suspended. The motion was seconded by Lieberg and carried.

During the discussion of cuts to ACB Radio, Gray stated that he felt strongly that this project should continue to have a paid contractor, and that he felt this was the wrong way for the organization to go.

Godino moved and Charlson seconded to transfer $29,700 from the convention budget account as needed. The motion carried. Godino projected that the total expenses for 2009 will be $1,105,367, with a net excess of +$17. Edwards moved to adopt the expense side of the budget; Campbell seconded and the motion carried with 2 nays. Lieberg asked if the nay votes wished to be recorded; Mr. Gray and Mr. Trott wished their nay votes to be so recorded. Campbell moved to adopt the budget in aggregate; the motion was seconded and carried with 2 nays, they being Gray and Trott.

The budget committee recommended that its members be selected at the post convention Board meeting. Godino moved and Colley seconded adoption of this recommendation; that motion carried.

While the fall 2009 Board meeting may be held during the second weekend of September, it was suggested that the Board return to a previously established schedule of the third weekend of each September.

Dena Wilson joined the meeting to discuss the three bids she received for direct mail services. Ruschival asked Wilson where ACB stands in its average receipts from direct mail campaigns compared to similar organizations. Wilson responded that ACB is in line with other similar organizations. After much discussion about each of the three bids, Wilson left the Board meeting. The Board carefully discussed the 3 bids it received. Thom moved acceptance of the Paul and Partners bid, subject to the ability of Brunson, Waters and Wilson to successfully negotiate a contract. Trott seconded, and the motion carried.

Edwards moved adoption of the convention reimbursement policy; Ruschival seconded and the motion carried.

Brunson was asked how affiliates would be reimbursed the one night lodging cost promised for the Legislative Conference. She indicated that when requests were received, staff would check with each affiliate president to ensure the requests are appropriate.

At 8:12 pm Thom moved adjournment; Campbell seconded and the motion carried.

Marlaina Lieberg
Submitted 03/13/09
Approved 05-21-09