Board Bombs – Stink of Failure Follows

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The stink of failure hangs heavy around the International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology (IACFP).

Since 1954 the Association has had five goals. To promote Psychology in criminal justice in general and to contribute to teaching, treatment, research, and public policy on relevant issues in our field in particular. Here is my personal, formerinsider’s evaluation of the Associations scorecard since 2012

2012 New initiatives 0 Advances toward meeting goals – none

Conclusion: BOARD FAILED

2013 New initiatives 0 Advances toward meeting goals – none

Conclusion: BOARD FAILED

2014 New initiatives 0 Advances toward meeting goals – none

Conclusion: BOARD FAILED

2015 New initiatives 0 Advances toward meeting goals – none

Conclusion: BOARD FAILED

2016 New initiatives 0 Advances toward meeting goals – none

Conclusion: BOARD FAILED

2017 New initiatives 0 Advances toward meeting goals – none

Conclusion: BOARD FAILED

2018 New initiatives 0 Advances toward meeting goals – none

Conclusion: BOARD FAILED

(If the Board disagrees, let’s hear their case, not the weak sauce they put out recently!)

Not only does this scorecard stink, things are actually worse than they appear at first glance. The CE’s available free to members for many years have been eliminated. The IACFP newsletter, the very soul of the Association and the principal means of communicating with Association members, has disappeared into a miasma of promises, delays and excuses, and the Board has lost four legal rounds concerning domain name ownership (at who knows what cost), in a vain attempt to silence me and prevent me from communicating with you.

Who are the people responsible for the Association and its situation? The report card shows it’s been over half a decade now -when will it end? What has to be done?

Cherie Townsend has identified the following list of people as the current Executive Director and Board members responsible for the Association.

Javel Jackson, Psy, D., President

Frank Porporino, Ph.D., President-elect

Richard Althouse, Ph.D., Secretary

Diane Williams, M.B.A., Treasurer

Jim DeGroot, Ph.D., Past President

Melvin Hinton, Ph.D.

Silvia Martinez, J.D.

Jeffrey L. Metzner, M.D.

Jeffrey Pfeifer, Ph.D.

J. Stephen Wormith, Ph.D.

Cheri Townsend, Executive Director

If we give the new Board members (toward the end of the list), the benefit of the doubt, having presumably joined the Board without complete access to relevant information but still in good faith,they may not be entirely culpable for the currentacrid odor of error hanging over IACFP. (Perhaps they are being told to just hold their noses.) Nonetheless, assuming the scorecard is true; they can hardly avoid the conclusion that the failures of the past are rapidly becoming their responsibility as the failures of the present. Inevitably, the smell on their vitas and reputationsmust soon follow. (I.e., “Weren’t you on the IACFP Board when . . . happened?”)

So, I urge these and any other Association Board members to protect yourselves by protecting the Association. Restore the free CE’s, restore the newsletter, be transparent, publish a budget, describe and explain the Board’s travel, liquor and entertainment expenses. Get a grip on what really must be done to determine how best to protect the Association’s reputation and its million-dollar assets, and how best to prepare the Association for the future.

Let’s stop the Board from the unconscionable dithering on progress and wasting of the Association’s money trying to silence its critics, and let’s make sure we all get down to the hard work of building an Association everyone can be proud of, one that doesn’t stink of failure.

(Members wanting to proceed to the regular website can click here to be redirected. However, I hope you’ll first take a look at my open letter to the Board and Association members below.)

An Open Letter to IACFP Members and Supporters

Dear Members and Friends,

The IACFP was founded over a half-century ago by professional people with the highest standards. Now, in 2018, I believe the Association is facing a crisis in meeting those high standards. Your help is needed to right the ship and advance the cause.

As members of the Association, we can no longer ignore the uncomfortable recognition that the Association’s current leadership has failed on multiple fronts and needs to change, and perhaps even be removed.

For example, just consider that:

(a) After years of dithering about formats and editors, the Board has ceased publishing The IACFP Newsletter, one of only two publications created for members. The newsletter was not published in January and apparently will not be published in April. Rumors abound about reinstating publication sometime in the vague future, but at this point it certainly appears to have been abandoned. (With your support, we can demand that the Board no longer ignore this important member benefit and have it restored immediately.)

(b) The IACFP website seems like a sorry representative for our members. Updates are rare and archives are missing. The “Contact” area alone has three block errors and three information blocks missing altogether. (The URL is mine, and I took back control of the domain a little over a week ago in order to bring you this message. Shouldn’t we insist that the Board take responsibility for what seems like dereliction of web site responsibilities, and furthermore, shouldn’t they describe and institute modern approaches to use and maintenance of the website? Once that happens, I may be able to give my URL to the Association.)

(c) I observed communications between the Board and other groups for a long time, and I believe important relationships with other organizations have been ignored or destroyed.

(d) A Board member wanted to put his son-in-law on a financial committee.

(e) Another tried to put his own business associate on the IACFP payroll.

(f) Spending is rarely if ever accounted for to the members in any transparent way.

The conclusion I drew from my many years of observing Board members and their decision making is that, in essence, we have insufficiently experienced, part-time people trying to run a multi-million dollar non-profit. (I also believe this conclusion would be obvious to any objective observer who had the necessary access.)

We need not dispute claims of good intentions to inquire about Board members’ training and experience in this kind of project, and to demand that they fill in the gaps in the several areas of expertise where they are lacking. This evaluation and remediation are both common sense and the stock in trade of our profession.

The Association exists for the benefit of the members, not for the convenience of the Board. With that in mind, I encouraged the Board to take these steps when I was on the inside, but sometimes people are too close to the painting to see the picture. I believe the Board is failing to recognize its own weaknesses and is thus jeopardizing the well-being of the Association and its members. I hope you will join me in creating a means to avoid what I believe could be the end of the Association as we know it.

A not altogether incidental issue is that the Association has assets worth over a million dollars. These assets were intended to benefit your professional well-being and that of other members. (Have you noticed any expenditures on your behalf? Significant training, education, etc? Policy positions on important professional issues? Wide-spread recognition of our colleagues or programs?) Worse, the financial assets have become vulnerable to loss through the potential neglect and ignorance of the people (any claims of good intentions aside), in charge of the Association.

I think most people would agree that times are changing. Sometimes changes and growth leave individuals behind. In this case, the true implications of the outstanding IACFP success through our affiliation with SAGE Publications seems to be going unrecognized. We have become among the elite of criminal justice non-profits when it comes to both revenue and potential influence, but the IACFP Board members seem stuck in the failed practices of the past.

Some of those responsible for our Association have ignored direct reports by stakeholders, declined to address information in white papers, omitted review of marketing reports, and turned a blind eye to other sources of information vital to the discharge of their responsibilities. During one Board meeting they agreed to hire a consulting firm already associated with one of the Board members at over $60,000, and so far as I know, have made no report to the members about the outcomes or the value of that expenditure.

How can these things happen? First, the Board operates in the shadows and almost entirely without monitoring. The direction of the Association, the commitment to the mission and vision, the allocation of resources is almost entirely at their whim. Communication with Association members is rare. Some Board members have little in the way of board experience, and some appear to me to be tainted by their own financial needs or personal agendas. For example, on separate occasions the Board has allowed the Association to pay airfare, meals and lodging for a number of individual Board members to travel to Las Vegas, Australia and Europe. They have ignored the rightful need of members to be informed of Association practices, relationships, policies and spending. And, they deleted a crucial by-laws stipulation allowing for oversight of major policy changes by members. By embedding the change among several other by-laws changes, they finessed your ability to protect your professional Association interests, and they can now operate with virtual impunity. (This stipulation should be reconsidered in its entirety and put back into the bylaws upon membership approval.)

In truth, it seems unlikely that any group of mostly elderly, white men (like me) who have been unwilling to diversify, unwilling to expand their understanding, unwilling to plan for succession, and unable to see the imperatives of the present (unlike me) would be able to lead an organization successfully into the future on their own. I leave it to the review panel to determine whether this characterization fits the IACFP Board, but so far it seems the present Board members have been unable and unwilling to create a better, substantive, and viable plan for the future of the Association than the one offered to the members and approved by the then current Board in 2012, and I’ve seen no signs that they have implemented a new one. I believe a review panel could and should nudge the Board into instituting practices to bring a new generation of people to the table and create a future worthy of the members and our role in criminal justice.

While I served as the Association’s Executive Director, I railed against ineffective, misguided, even potentially unethical political and financial practices but with only limited success. I believe the Board is able to thrive as it is only in darkness, and I believe I was a problem for them in large part because I supported transparency and membership involvement.

The Board could have reformed the practices I complained about. Instead, they choose to shoot the messenger. After renewing my contract in November, 2016, they broke it in January of 2017. In what I believe is complete confirmation of my contention about an inclination to work in the shadows, they breached my contract after many years as a volunteer, 10 years as Executive Director and over 25 years total with the Association entirely without explanation to me. In addition, the breached the contract without the “cause” required by the contract drawn up by their own attorney. I mention these legal issues only for full disclosure and context, but they are separate from the topics here. These issues will work their way through the courts on their own. In the meantime, I will not be silenced on the issues I see facing the Board and our Association. I believe the Association and its assets must be protected and I do not intend to be silenced or intimidated.

In sum, I have waited over a year for the Board to take action on behalf of the members; to actually do something for members, but I have seen no progress. In addition, the Board has not responded to my recent efforts to reach out to them on these topics. For that reason I feel compelled to bring my message directly to you and the other members.

I will not be surprised if the Board members respond to this letter to you by declaring war. I recognize no one likes a public airing of potential errors, misdeeds or conflicts of interest. Given earlier impressions, I will certainly not be surprised if they seek to employ public and shadowy character assassination. You can be the judge. But trying to shoot the messenger once again simply misses the point. I stand with you. It is imperative that we bring the Association out of the shadows and into the sunshine. Let disinterested individuals review the history of the Board over the last five years. Determine why nothing notable has been done on behalf of the members for years. Examine the Board travel costs. Find out what’s really happening with the million dollars in assets.

If you believe like I do that we all need to be held accountable, please join with me to demand collaboration with the Executive Board of IACFP to create a panel within the next 20 days of disinterested individuals to review the issues above and the many others that have vexed the Association for the last five years but been ignored. I welcome a review of my tenure as Executive Director, as well, should the members wish.

There is no significant cost to the Association to work with me to create an objective panel. If you are interested, you can help me help them in its formation. If the Association is being run as it should be, has the necessary expertise, and is protecting its assets, it will be quickly apparent to the review panel and the panel can make their report it to the members in short order. If instead, things are as I perceive, the panel will have made significant progress in protecting the Association from the ignorance and neglect that concerns me and that should be the legitimate concerns of all of us as members.

Given that a million dollars (made in our names as members) and the Association’s reputation is at stake, shouldn’t we know how that money will be utilized for member benefits or at least to benefit our profession? Shouldn’t we know why so little has been done to promote the Association’s goals, and shouldn’t we know how the Board intends to pursue the Association’s mission?

I have been a proud member of the Association for over 25 years now, and have been equally proud to represent it in venues around the world. For the last several years my pride has been put in jeopardy. We have a great journal, but a great journal deserves a great organization behind it that we can all continue to be proud of and to assure the journal’s growth, legitimacy and the highest in scholarly standards. It is abundantly clear to me that we have great members but as someone who has been on the inside, I believe we do not right now have a great organization. We must demand the changes necessary to bring it about. We cannot risk the Association’s journal and we ought not risk the Association’s assets by continuing to allow the Board to operate ineffectively and in the shadows. Please support this call for the spotlight of objectivity to be shown on the Association’s practices. The Association ultimately belongs to its members—to us. Please support this demand for a professional review panel to make sure the IACFP survives and prospers as the founders intended and the members deserve.

John Gannon, Ph.D.

Member and former Executive Director

jgannon1000@gmail.com