An Open Letter To Members Of
The International Association For Correctional And Forensic Psychology (IACFP)
From The Former Executive Director
Brief Informational Summary:
Introduction: Unhappy times can come to membership organizations when the mission gets lost, practices fail to match requirements, and leadership falters. Impending failure may be obscure to the members until it is too late, and sometimes only revelations from someone inside can sound the alert
before catastrophe hits. I was on the inside of the Association as Executive Director of IACFP for 10 years, and I believe not only that the dismal times are here but that our Association is in deep crisis. Your attention and help are urgently needed. If we want the Association to endure, we must insist that outside reviewers be empanelled 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.
A few examples: According to recent reports, the IACFP journal nose-dived in the rankings three of the last four years. Income is in the hundreds of thousands each year, and the Association put over a million dollars in the bank. Yet, while revenues climbed, retained earnings fell. Income increased but member
benefits decreased. Spending went up but without appreciable benefit to the members. The January and April newsletters are nowhere to be found. The guarantees in the by-laws for member oversight of major policy changes has been eliminated. Travel costs are excessive. Cross membership by IACFP Board members on other organizations’ Boards generates concerns of potential conflicts of interest. Membership is reportedly the lowest in years.
What has happened: Many Board members became involved with the Association before our current level of success, and my conclusion is that they simply do not have sufficient experience in this kind of organization or the right fund of knowledge to provide the necessary leadership. I believe that too much at stake is being left in the wrong hands to continue without outside evaluation. Consequently, I am calling for formation of a review panel of members and disinterested others to review the structure, decision-making and business practices of the Association.
Please stay in touch and get involved:
I will post updates on these issues on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SaveIACFP
Additional information will be available on my Association-related blog: https://saveiacfp.blogspot.com/
A video on these topics will be posted soon on YouTube and the blog.
There is a summary slide presentation of the history of the Association at this link: https://tinyurl.com/y7hgpxzg
Please see the open letter from me to members and supporters below. As a member of an important profession, and a paying member of the Association, you deserve respect and excellence in representation. I hope you’ll read my letter to make sure that happens. You can make a difference. Email me if you have questions or suggestions – firstname.lastname@example.org We can do this; you can help.
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