It’s time for AMTA National elections, and so far, it’s a hot mess. The ruckus all started when Presdident-Elect Jeff Smoot made a post on Facebook announcing his own choices among the candidates.
I have known Smoot for a few years through the association, and I sent him a private message that I thought he was making a tactical error. We had a little back-and-forth but the post remained; he felt it was okay to have posted it and his post said that the Commission on Candidacy Chair and the Chair of Elections have determined that his FB post falls under the realm of “personal conversation.” As of today, he has 665 FB friends–a lot more than some, a lot less than others, but that’s a relatively good-sized personal conversation.
Some other officers, present and former, and interested readers (including me) weighed in with concerns about the legality and ethics of the post–including some who have gotten in trouble for lesser social media offenses before. And as several people pointed out, other national health care organizations do not allow their board members to endorse candidates who are running for office in their organizations. Others stated they were glad to see it and felt it was overdue for the organization to join the 21st century and get with the social media program. Although I haven’t seen anyone say it publicly on FB, I’ve received a few private messages suggesting that he should resign, and barring that, that the organization should remove him from office.
I personally emailed current President Nancy Porambo and Executive Director Bill Brown about the situation. Porambo was nice enough to call me, and stated that Smoot’s post wasn’t a violation, but she was aware there were some perception problems with it.
However, AMTA’s own Policy Manual seems to be a confusing train wreck on this issue. Under “Campaigning” (Section XII), Item 4 states
Candidates may:Utilize social networks to inform people of their candidacy, position, or issues, and respond to questions.
Directly under that, Item G states
Volunteers shall not use their current AMTA position to promote a candidate.
Item H goes on to further state
Violations of this section, Campaigning, may result in the removal of a candidate from the ballot, making them ineligible for election.
Obviously, someone is confused. Technically, Smoot’s announcing his choice of candidates could be considered a “position.” But Item G looks pretty cut and dried to me. I think AMTA needs to go back to the table and fix this mess, which was, according to the date on the policy, just revised barely more than a week ago on October 29.
It’s all moot to me. I dropped my own membership in AMTA this past August after more than a decade of being a member. I didn’t like the fact that The Wizard of Oz was hired for a fortune to be the keynote speaker at the national convention, and the chapter fee fiasco is still sticking in my craw. But the main clincher, when I called them on that, was that it was done by the BOD in executive session, without knowledge of the chapter presidents, because “the competition was in the room” (meaning ABMP.) Well, guess what…ABMP is always in the room during the Board meeting at the national convention; at least they have been at the 10 conventions I have attended. That’s mighty convenient for casting aside transparency. I attended the chapter meetings in three different states soon after that change came to light, and it had substantially affected the budgets of all of them negatively; not to mention the fact the budgets had already been done for the coming year and had to be done again to take the fee losses into consideration. Yes, there are people who will continue to support their chapters, but just as many will probably not pay anything they don’t have to. It’s my opinion that the chapters and the Massage Therapy Foundation are going to suffer from this policy, and I hope it is revisited.
I have always loved participating in my state chapter and have taught classes in many AMTA chapters, and I have loved them all. I wish the organization well, but they need to clean this up immediately.