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Massage Today
June, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 06

CA Massage Board to Review Expenses Policy

Will Board Members Continue to Vote on their own Expenses?

By Kathryn Feather, Senior Associate Editor

The Chair of the California Massage Therapy Council, Dixie Wall, has issued a statement saying the board would "review it's non-staff expense reimbursement policy at the June board meeting to ensure that the policy reflects CAMTC's commitment to fiscal responsibility." Wall also stated the approved policy would be available via the website after the meeting at www.camtc.org.

The review is in response to the controversies (see article "The CAMTC Money Grab.") surrounding expenses for the American Massage Conference (AMC), which was held in April in San Diego.

"When CAMTC first started planning the staffing for the AMC, the total conference attendance was estimated between 2,000 to 3,000 individuals. CAMTC planned accordingly by proposing that more staff attend to handle the number of participants," said Wall. "Later, when it was discovered that massage professional attendance would be closer to 1,000, CAMTC adjusted the staffing plan accordingly."

Wall said that now "only three directors intend to request reimbursement for travel expenses" and not the seven (six actually voted, one was not present) who originally voted for their own expenses "Four of the seven spent their own time and money to attend and assist with this conference," said Wall. "The way in which the motion was framed was unclear because it gave the impression that the number of Directors attending the conference was not capped and that reimbursement was unlimited. In fact, that was never the intent."

California massage Therapy Council - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark As reported previously in Massage Today, 11 members of the California Massage Therapy Council Board (CAMTC), voted at their Tuesday, April 10, 2012 meeting to reimburse travel expenses for those board members planning to attend the American Massage Conference (AMC), which was set to open eight days later.

Six of those who voted "yes" approved their own expenses, the seventh, Judi Calvert, was not present for the vote; two others were not present, three voted no and two abstained.

"I was not surprised that the motion passed despite a few 'No' votes and at least one abstention. I was surprised that several board members for whom Mr. Netanel was requesting expense reimbursement voted in favor of the resolution instead of abstaining," said said CAMTC Board Member and ABMP Chairman Bob Benson.

The invitation to attend the AMC and to claim reimbursement from the CAMTC was made to all current board members with no cap on how many could request reimbursement.

Duty Free Trip

Seven board members submitted their expenses for attending the event prior to the Board meeting. CAMTC also sent six staffers to the event, primarily to man the organization's booth, but at the time of the vote, no specific duties or responsibilities were given to the board members who indicated that they planned on attending.

However, after a story about the expenses appeared on MassageToday.com, CAMTC CEO Ahmos Netanel submitted a list of duties board members would be expected to perform. These duties included helping staff answer questions at the booth, manning a separate table from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday in the student area during "Career Day," being available to answer questions during a free presentation to AMC attendees and being available throughout the convention hall and at the Saturday evening Gala to meet certificate holders and answer any questions.

"The main strategy here is not to be a static vendor that just sits at a booth," Netanel said. "Our outreach approach is to be dynamic and interactive by literally reaching out well beyond the confines of our booth, to optimize the impact of our participation."

The reimbursement agenda item, brought up during the boards teleconference meeting, was titled: "Board member's attendance at the American Massage Conference." Netanel introduced the item by suggesting that while there was ample staff to provide support at the CAMTC booth, there were expected to be a large number of attendees and he was "concerned there will not be enough help." However, critics on the board contended that specific responsibilities were not discussed or defined in Netanel's introduction of this item. Board member Joe Bob Smith then made a motion to reimburse those who assisted with CAMTC activities and outreach at the American Massage Conference. The motion was seconded by CAMTC board member Roberta Rolnick who cited the necessity of "accessibility to the stakeholders and helping to improve the reputation of the CAMTC" as reasons for attendance and justification for reimbursement.

When asked about reimbursement policy and if this would be apply to other conferences, Netanel referenced first a 2009 and then a 2010 reimbursement policy passed by the board, which states in part, "Directors may receive such reimbursement of expenses as the Board may determine by resolution to be fair and reasonable at the time that the resolution is adopted." However, some board members didn't think the policy applied to conferences and conventions, only board meetings. "The motion that was passed does not incorporate any caps or guidelines at all. It does not limit the number of directors who can go or what they can request for reimbursement," said board member Mike Schroeder. "For example, the motion provides for full per diem even though the banquet is free and even though nothing is occurring on Thursday other than a golf tournament."

Roving Ambassadors

Three board members voted against the motion, including two board members who spoke publicly in opposition to the motion, Bob Benson of ABMP and Mike Schroeder of the American Massage Council. "I am against this motion as I think it is a bad idea and could be viewed from the outside as a boondoggle. I don't believe it is appropriate to bring this up before the board at the last minute, right before the AMC. The Board doesn't represent CAMTC, only the Chair and the CEO can speak for CAMTC. This will cost between $600 and $1100 per board member with no cap on the number of board members who can attend or cap on the size of the reimbursement that a board member can request. I don't think having a group of 'roving ambassadors' is the best use of our funds. I think we should discuss this at the next board meeting and put a policy in place so there can be no appearance of a misuse of funds," said CAMTC board member Mike Schroeder.

"When I heard that Ahmos Netanel planned to have four CAMTC staff members present at the conference plus at least seven board members, I suggested that felt like overkill, said board member Bob Benson. "ABMP, for example, a major sponsor of the Conference, plans to have four individuals present to lead educational sessions and to host our booth. I support CAMTC taking advantage of a good opportunity at the American Massage Conference to interact with California massage practitioners and educate them about the benefits of CAMTC certification. CAMTC's approved outreach/marketing budget for 2012 includes sufficient funds to support staff attendance at the conference. I voted 'No' on the resolution because I felt allocating additional funds to permit seven board members to supplement CAMTC staff at the conference was excessive and not reasonably justifiable."

"The American Massage Council is very opposed to this unwarranted expenditure of CAMTC funds. Our members worked very hard to pay their dues and the money shouldn't be spent sending board members to conferences where they have no responsibilities," said Schroeder, also owner and co-founder of the American Massage Council.

While efforts were made to contact each of the board members who voted in favor of the motion, only two board members spoke in favor of their attendance and reimbursement. "I'm attending the AMC conference at the request of Ahmos Netanel and to network on behalf of CAMTC," said Board member Keith Grant. "In short, I believe it behooves CAMTC to be seen as accessible and not remote--almost literally 'in touch' with those regulated, particularly given several factors in the start up of CAMTC: a much greater response that was envisioned for the first six months; having to create procedure to handle schools and transcripts that weren't as claimed; and having to fight back against the California Police Chief's Association's initial attempt to dismantle CAMTC. Again, in short, it was a rough start and I believe there are still some people out that need a chance to vent and be listened to face-to-face."

"The venue provides a valuable opportunity to network with influential individuals from around the country who have expressed a strong interest in California's unique massage regulation; in short, a chance to learn, teach and network in a setting that rarely comes to our state," said Board member Mark Dixon. "As the first meeting of this type attended by the CAMTC, I believe the small investment is a sound one that will place experienced, knowledgeable professionals before an important audience. Even so, as a volunteer, I stand to lose considerably more in income than the reimbursement. Moreover, I attended last month's AMTA-CA Chapter Educational Conference, representing CAMTC in continuous meetings throughout the weekend. I received zero reimbursement."

The seven board members requesting reimbursement were: Mark Dixon, Deborah Tuck, Roberta Rolnick, Judi Calvert (Calvert did not participate in the teleconference and did not vote), Keith Grant(who ultimately did not attend the conference), Elna Leonardo and Christian Pezza.

 

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