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Massage Today
April 12, 2012

CA Massage Board Votes to Send "Roving Ambassadors" to San Diego Convention

By Kathryn Feather, Senior Associate Editor

A majority of the California Massage Therapy Council Board (CAMTC) voted at their Tuesday meeting to reimburse themselves for travel expenses to next week's American Massage Conference (AMC), just days before the conference is set to take place.

The board acted without a policy in place to guide such a decision and with no cap on the amount of money that can be claimed for reimbursement, critics said. The invitation to attend the AMC and to claim reimbursement from the CAMTC was made to all current board members. Seven board members have indicated that they plan on seeking reimbursement for attending the event.

CAMTC is also sending four staffers to the event, primarily to man the organization's booth, but no specific duties or responsibilities were given to the board members who have indicated that they plan on attending.

The topic of reimbursement was introduced at the board's regular meeting on April 10, 2012. The agenda item, brought up during the boards teleconference meeting, was titled: "Board member's attendance at the American Massage Conference." CAMTC CEO, Ahmos 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 assist 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.


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 CAMTC Board Member and ABMP Chairman 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.

Efforts were made to contact several board members and CEO Ahmos Netanel, but responses had not been received by press time. Updates will be provided as those comments come in.

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 ( ), Elna Leonardo ( ) and Christian Pezza ( ). "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 Benson.

Board members that requested reimbursement can receive it for the following items: hotel expenses (rooms are $125 per night), mileage ($.55 per mile), per diem (listed at $213), transportation and airfare with totals ranging from approximately $600 to over $1,000 per board member, depending on how far they have to travel to the San Diego conference.


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