CAMTC Responds to “Money Grab” Accusation from Massage Today

Last week, Massage Today President Donald Peterson published an article entitled The CAMTC Money Grab. It cast the CAMTC in a very unfavorable light; to make a long story short, it appeared to expose excessive financial wrongdoing at the organization by stating that the CAMTC was paying the expenses and per diem for no less than 14 board members to attend the American Massage Conference. The AMC is a moveable event that is held each year in a different location, and this year’s event was taking place in San Diego.

Peterson backed up his claims of financial excess with a table showing who voted to spend the money and who didn’t, and also stated that Massage Today Senior Associate Editor Kathryn Feather had actually been on the CAMTC conference call when the vote was taken about spending the money. The criticism was that although it was not unanimous, that for the most part the people who voted to spend it were the people who were going to receive it. In reality, that’s the way it goes on all boards; board members vote on things, and that includes where and when to attend events and how much money will be spent on it, so there’s really nothing unusual about that.

I shared this article on my Facebook page, and immediately started hearing from board members of the CAMTC that Peterson’s story was very biased and not telling all the facts. Since I initially shared it and contributed to giving a bad impression of the organization, I made the offer to them that I would give them equal time on my blog to present their side of the story. The fallout from this has been swift, not the least of which is the resignation of Keith Eric Grant from the magazine, which he has been contributing to since 2002. Grant is a CAMTC board member, and someone I  have admired as a writer, a scientist, and a person from afar. He has been blogging about the politics of massage way before I started. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him in person, but we have been FB friends for several years, and as I stated on my page, I would believe pigs would fly before I would believe that he would misrepresent the truth.

Grant’s response to the Massage Today article can be read in its entirety here.

I also immediately heard from Joe Bob Smith, another CAMTC board member, whom I have personally met several times. Joe Bob’s response to my sharing the article on FB was this:

Laura, sometimes your quick fingers get something going without hearing from the other side. As a CAMTC board member, I believe that Massage Today wrote a biased piece with missing and incorrect information. I’ll be happy to defend the actions of the board any day. The CAMTC is made up of 20 terrific volunteers, many working massage therapists themselves. They put a lot of their own time (and time is money) into this organization. Many will be losing money by volunteering at the AMC. They deserve to be reimbursed for out of pocket travel expenses when on board business. And the per diem limit is $211/day (standard government established rates) which includes hotel, not just food. The CAMTC has a very proactive, working board that has done a lot to curb prostitution and human trafficking in the two and a half years it’s been in existence. I do hope you’ll seek me out next time you hear of CAMTC news. While we all have differences of opinions, I would like to make sure the other side gets at least equal opportunity.

I also heard from Mark Dixon, Vice Chairman of the CAMTC. His response to my offer to tell the CAMTC side of the story is printed here verbatim, and was actually his response to Kathryn Feather’s questioning him as to why he voted to support the members being reimbursed, and what his duties would be:

The importance of attending this meeting and interfacing with those attending is reinforced by my continuous attendance at national and statewide conventions of this type since 1975. My comments are strictly related to the question asked, and are about my own participation. It’s not hard, though, to extrapolate that purpose to the other volunteers who will attend the AMC.

Regretfully, CAMTC’s CEO, Ahmos Netanel, has been asked to return his attention to more pressing issues affecting CAMTC, and is unable to reply to your offer.

My response to Kathryn:

As I stated during the debate, I’d agree with the two other entities in disagreement if the event were anywhere but in California. But in San Diego there will be roughly 2000 local massage therapists and affiliated bodyworkers in attendance who either provide or manage massage services. In addition, the venue provides a valuable opportunity to network with influential individuals from around the country who have expressed 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.

My specific duties include but will not be limited to meeting with counterparts from other state boards and professional organizations, directing participants to the specific part of the CAMTC that is most helpful to them, assisting with coverage of our exhibit, and following up/developing contacts during the years to come. I expect to be on duty from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon and plan to take one three-hour class at my own expense.

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. I’ve been working meetings of this type since 1975, and have learned that a highly concentrated group of individuals in a convention setting affords an excellent opportunity to save considerable expense of travel and lodging.

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.

Although as Dixon said, CAMTC Executive Director Ahmos Netanel was too busy to reply to my offer to personally tell the other side of the story, Massage Today did print an e-mail that he sent to Peterson in response to the article. It is quite lengthy and can be read in its entirety here.

In summary, Netanel accused Massage Today of misrepresenting the facts in a biased and inflammatory way, and withholding information that would have cleared up the accusations to begin with. By the looks of Netanel’s rebuttal, this article would probably have never gone to print–at least not in its present form–had his responses been considered before the magazine went to press.

Since I’ve been accused of being inflammatory myself–and rightly so, at times–and because I shared the Massage Today article on my FB page, I felt compelled to present the CAMTC side of the story. In fact, Keith Eric Grant and Joe Bob Smith have both occasionally called me on the carpet over something, and I don’t resent that. Although I certainly have my own opinions and biases, it is never my intention to be so biased that I can’t see both sides of the story, or at least give them equal consideration. And like a lot of things, there’s one side, there’s the other side, and somewhere in the middle is the actual truth.

I will also state, in the interest of self-disclosure, that during my five years on the North Carolina Board, I was sent to several conventions on their behalf, and they paid my way. Board members on any board generally give up their own time to volunteer when they could be making substantially more money than the per diems allowed by boards (and in fact some don’t pay a per diem at all), not to mention their time away from their own families, businesses and other activities in the interest of service to the organization. I’m the office manager/receptionist at my own office, and every time I attended a board meeting, I had to pay someone to take my place. My per diem ($100 per day) didn’t come close to covering that, or the inconvenience of driving almost five hours both ways to attend a meeting. While it’s true that there is always going to be some abuse taking place somewhere, I believe that’s the exception and not the rule, and I don’t think this particular incident was a case of abuse of board funds. Mark Dixon quoted the late great Paul Harvey, who always signed off by saying “and there you have the rest of the story.”

My blog is my own opinion, and should not ever be considered to be the opinion of anyone else.

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