Absolute Power Corrupts

It’s election time, and we’re being subjected to the usual rounds of propaganda, false accusations, half-truth mudslinging, and other shenanigans that accompany campaigns. It’s also election time at the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, and I’ve been watching their shenanigans with the same sense of “did they really say/do that?” I’ve felt about the politicians.

Just to remind you: FSMTB is a non-profit that exists to serve its “Member Boards” – the various state boards that regulate the practice of massage therapy. This organization has a lot of clout in the field, because its member agencies are the ones that regulate massage at the state level, and in some cases, massage schools and massage establishments as well.

Non-profits have a governing Board of Directors (BOD) that sets policy and controls the hiring of key professional staff. In the case of FSMTB, there is another body within the organization that has the power to set policy and shape the strategic direction FSMTB should take: it’s called the Delegate Assembly. This group, comprised of one representative from each state board, typically gathers each year at the FSMTB Annual Meeting—which is coming up on September 27-29 in New Orleans.

You might be thinking, “What’s her problem here? Sounds like regular stuff to me!” Well, I’m clanging the alarm bell because the control of FSMTB has been shifting into fewer, and tighter hands. I’m talking about the FSMTB Board of Directors (who are elected), and the Executive Director (who is hired by the Board). It’s hard to believe that this shift has happened in plain view, and with the consent of the Delegate Assembly.

What has happened is that the Member Boards have given up their power, seemingly without a fight. Over the past couple of years, there have been changes made to the Federation Bylaws that I find unacceptable, personally. I’m a former delegate to the Federation myself, and I would never have rolled over for such a thing.

From Section 5. Nomination and Election of Officers and Directors, the FSMTB Bylaws have changed to prevent any nominations for seats on the Board of Directors coming from the floor during the Annual Meeting. They have also changed the method of electing the FSMTB officers–President, Vice President and Treasurer. Originally, officers were elected by a majority vote of the Delegate Assembly, but that has been changed so that the officers are now elected by the Board of Directors themselves.

In addition to these two changes, the provision specifying the term of office and maximum number of consecutive terms was changed. In the original Bylaws, Directors served two-year terms, with a max of eight consecutive years on the Board. Now, they are elected to three-year terms, with a max span of nine consecutive years. That’s a long time to hang around on a volunteer board — especially when the Board member may no longer be serving on their own state massage board.

So in this new system, a three-person Nominating Committee has full control over naming the “slate” candidiate for a BOD seat, and determining who else (if anyone) may be on the ballot for that given seat. Does that strike you as Inside Politics? Sure does for me.

The combination of 1) taking nominating power away from the Delegates themselves, 2) taking the power to elect officers away from the Member Boards and putting it in the hands of the BOD, and 3) expanding the term of Directors to three years and a total of nine consecutive years on the BOD, has consolidated power in the hands of the BOD to a shocking and unacceptable degree. It is unhealthy, and contrary to the spirit in which Member Boards carry out their commitments to the represent public interest.

With that said, if there can be an uproar and outrage created over this power grab, the Delegate Assembly could change the FSMTB Bylaws on the spot at the Annual Meeting, according to Article XI, Section 3 of the Bylaws:

Section 3. Adoption without prior notice.
These Bylaws may also be amended at any meeting of the Delegate Assembly at which a quorum is present without previous notice by nine-tenths of all Delegates present and voting; provided that the proposed amendment has been distributed in formal written form at the beginning of the meeting.

Otherwise, Bylaw amendments must be submitted in writing to Member Boards at least 45 days in advance of the Delegate Assembly. Now, it’s probably a long shot to get a near-unanimous vote on such a thing, but it’s certainly possible.

Incidentally, the Nominating Committee that is listed on the FSMTB website is not the current committee. I hear that the committee members this year are actually Susan Beam (NC), Cathy Lescak (GA) and Chris Sluss (TN). Somebody should alert the FSMTB webmaster to this oversight.

I strongly urge the Delegates to the FSMTB Annual Meeting to take a good hard look at what has taken place. It’s time to regroup and repeal these ridiculous amendments later this month in New Orleans. You have the ability to bring the power back to the Member Boards to directly choose the people who will represent the organization, and you need to reclaim your ability to set policy. Do what you were charged to do–represent your state board–and don’t be a bunch of sheeple. The state boards are on their way to becoming little more than window dressing at the Annual Meeting if you don’t assert yourselves this time. Absolute power corrupts. We’ve all seen it happen in other organizations in our profession. Don’t allow it to happen here.


15 Replies to “Absolute Power Corrupts”

  1. Absolutely! Sounds like they need to establish an Ethics Committee, as well, or wake theirs up if they already have one.

  2. Laura,
    Thank you for stating this so clearly.
    You state “Do what you were charged to do–represent your state board–and don’t be a bunch of sheeple”
    I would like to ask you for advise on how to represent our board?
    They are the gatekeepers and we have 2 people from Ohio that are part of this current group on FSMTB.

    I have attended our Massage Therapy Advisory Committee (MTAC) meetings for 2 years, as an independant therapist as well as AMTA representative, submitted my resume, offered to help facilitate the education of their constituents (amta-ohio) members and have been shut out.
    Red flags go up for me when doors shut, dialogue diminishes and only one view is able to be seen.
    This has been my concern since I first posed the question on a forum in January about accepting both NCB and Mblex in Ohio, NCB did not blind side the Ohio legislation, Lori Ohlmann (NCB) has documentation (state recorded) their attempts to talk with the Medical Board for over 18 months prior to getting the JCARR ruling to sunset the law for 1 year.
    Please advise, because I do want what is best for the professional growth and development of massage therapy.

  3. Diane, I don’t know what to say about your board’s situation. I mentioned it in a previous blog: https://lauraallenmt.com/blog/tag/massage-therapy/

    “Earlier this year, there was an ugly ruckus in Ohio over a similar kind of rule change. It ended in a Massage Therapy Advisory Committee member being removed after he asked the NCBTMB during the hearing: “How much money will it take to make you go away?” It was deemed unprofessional conduct at best, and an offer of a bribe at worst.”

    When a board has one or more members–or paid employees for that matter–who is on a power trip, it affects the whole board. It affects the organization on the whole. And the trickle down effect is that it affects the profession on the whole.

  4. Interesting part is he was one of the good ones, because he asked for transparency and action steps from the committee. We had a different view, but he was willing to talk about it, to help get understanding.

    The people currently on the committee are not seeking input from our profession, there are no action plans published. We have the same issues on the table from 2006, continuing education (no requirements to date) and our 5 year rule review was due in 2009. These things concern me.
    I greatly appreciate you forum. It allows for discussion, and different points of view for a better understanding. We don’t always have to agree, but seeing things from different points of view allows people to open their eyes and have understanding.
    I know it has helped me. Thanks

    “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
    Haile Selassie

  5. I have been asked this week why someone with 24 years’ National and CA Government Relations experience; who during those 24 years has served on the AMTA and MTF Boards, and the AMTA-CA Board; who attended ten straight years of League of California Cities conventions; who has developed a municipal, state and national network of GR interests; who is well known in the national massage/bodywork community; who has attended every CAMTC meeting since August 2009 and currently serves the CAMTC, did not receive an interview following his application to serve the FSMTB Board. That makes it patently obvious to me that the nomination committee has their own agenda, if they’re not even willing to interview someone with those kinds of qualifications.

  6. In this blog post, there are many, many problems stated-no question. The difficulty is how to go about solving them. The problems of transparency, trust, operational processes, and what appears to be a lack of understanding of the power of the delegate vote.
    The “problem” is…..PROBLEMS can’t be solved. They’re emotion based, and rather than being able to focus on specifics, a “pile on” begins. It’s already happening in the blog responses. FSMTB delegates, officers, the ED, etc., need to work to change the PROBLEMS into issues. ISSUES can be solved. For example: “I have a problem with my landlord. He absolutely refuses to maintain the property and I’m worried that someone will get hurt.” That’s a problem. Changing to an issue: “The safety issues related to the many pot-holes in the parking lot will likely lead to personal or property damage. The pot-holes in the parking lot must be fixed. It’s specific…..what isn’t specific, is the “how”. THIS is where compromise can enter into the equation. A cheap bandaid fix of filling the holes with gravel; slightly more cost to add asphalt patch, would allow for 2 degrees of a short term fix. The immediate issue of safety would be somewhat addressed, and allow for a long term plan of repaving.
    In order for any organization to serve their customer, member, etc., I believe one of the single most important things to keep in mind is to SOLVE THE PROBLEMS OF THEIR CUSTOMER/MEMBER. In many cases, especially in non-profit organizations, the focus is on solving the problems of the organization, which is packaged, or in worse cases “veiled” in the illusion that in solving the problems of the organization, the problems of the customer/member is solved. I suspect the bylaw change sprouted from issues of ensuring qualifications, etc., yet unfortunately the outcome has not provided a solution to their members. As I mentioned earlier, this is a common situation-even when the best of intentions are present. What matters now, and what will prove to be a clear indication of whether or not the FSMTB is interested focusing on their member boards, and changing this PROBLEM into an issue that can be resolved.
    What happens next will clearly illustrate the organizational culture and intent. Will they focus on the working unsolvable problems? Will they choose to change this into a solvable issue? Will they choose to provide solutions to themselves and their processes, or will they choose their members….and the bigger question….who will care.

  7. Besides the issue of who is serving on the Board. I am unclear what the board does other than handle issues of state licensing and the national certification board. I would like to see more labor issues discussed.

    Serious abuses are happening in spas and chiropractic offices espeically when Massage Therapists are classified as Independent Contractors. Independent Contractors seem to very little recourse against the owners of these facilities. Young therapists that do not choose to work for themselves are often overworked and underpaid. Very little mention of this in any of the Massage Publications. As an educator sending young people out into the work force, this is a concern of mine.

  8. Sara, neither a state licensing board, nor the National Certification Board, has anything to do with labor issues, other than the fact that some state boards do license establishments as well as individual therapists, and in some states, massage schools.

    The IC/employee issue is the domain of the Internal Revenue Service. If a person has a doubt about the way they are classified, they can go to http://www.irs.gov and fill out a Determination of Worker Status Form SS-8, and the IRS will settle that for them.

    It is not the job, nor is it the legal right, of any massage board or the NCBTMB to regulate pay or working hours. That is the domain of the Labor Department in any state, so if someone feels they are being mistreated, that is where they should file a complaint. Bear in mind that ICs are self-employed people–so the basic answer there is if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.

Comments are closed.