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Financial Irregularities

2012-03-05

Since the posting of Jeff B.’s response, NAPPS Watcher has received two private hushmails concerning the ‘loose’ bookkeeping between Mr. Admin and Mr. Roth.  It appears these individuals may have more information to share on the subject that go beyond what Mr. Admin put in writing to Jeff B about conference expenses.  It is our hope that these members step forward and bring these matters to the attention of the board.  We’ll do our part in keeping the pressure on so if any reader has specific information about financial irregularities (Mr. Admin’s credit card included), please do so using our hushmail account.

Along those lines, one dilemma the board continues to face is deciding how matters like these are addressed – publicly or privately.  Private used to mean executive session but now association business is being conducted privately under the auspices of Special Meetings.  Further, definitions of executive session have been conveniently expanded that go beyond what the bylaws prescribe.  How can a board conduct internal investigations and audits in hopes of keeping the subject matter and findings away from the members?

We now know that Mr. Admin’s definition of transparency is that of a delusional person.  Couple that with outright refusals to produce financial records and incompetent bookkeeping.  It was Regan that said, ‘trust but verify’.  We can’t even get off the trust marker folks and now several key board members (including Mr. Yellon) would like the dirty laundry to be dealt with in executive session.  A private deal cut as it were.  A wrist slapped, no wrongdoing admitted, business as usual, blah blah blah…

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We did a minor update to the site expanding our Working Stories section.  Each working story has its own page that can be found in the top right hand column.  It’s a work in progress. Our intent is to make it easy to find the things you’re interested in.

ANSWER THE DOOR

2012-03-03

You open the door slowly, cautiously to reveal two unknown persons.  Making eye contact one of them says, 

“I guess we don’t have to tell you why we’re here.”

Nobody relishes such an encounter, it’s unnerving.  It rips at our primal core and tears at the conscience.  It is what keeps some from peace.

That said, how could one even consider that this might be the fate of certain members?  Could the association be slipping closer to this reality as the leadership in NAPPS locks down in order to deal with some unfortunate and troubling realities.  We are past a few irregularities, something more is afoot.  Locked down and divided they are.

For those who hold elected office, good advice could be to measure twice and cut once   Common sense and seat of the pants hasn’t served you well over the last several years, that much is clear.  Perhaps it’s time to reconsider an earlier request because all this simply can’t fit under the rug anymore.

Your first duty isn’t to each other, it’s to the membership.  Membership IS the association.

Oh…those people at the door; just process servers.  Who did you think they were???

JEFF B. RESPONDS | PART IV

2012-02-29

NAPPS Watcher has given considerable thought to the posting of Jeff B.’s response.  He touches on a number of matters that should be considered fair game but if one accepts that, the dialogue will likely drive the division in NAPPS deeper.  Understand however, that this is how NAPPS plays the game when questions are asked about things that are never meant to be questioned – let alone publicly.

To an outsider, one can easily ask, ‘what’s the big deal?’.  The guy makes a facebook post in a semi-private group that is critical of certain practices in a trade association.  His comments are based on actual experiences.  What’s the big deal?

Enough of a deal apparently to drive Mr. Admin over the edge.  Draft a work of fiction, find a couple of stooges to sponsor and shepherd the process.  Tweak a few rules thus eliminating any possibility of due process and the nuisance goes away never to return.  Pat yourselves on the back for a job well done.  What’s the big deal?

When questioned, the response is inevitably the same.  “The money?  The irregularities?  The inside dealings?  What’s your point?  We’re acting in the best interest of the association and if you don’t believe it, remember the members elected us.”

It’s an ironic thing really – if it wasn’t such a big deal, Jeff B. would have been left alone.  Smart people know better – petty thieves don’t. They just can’t help themselves.  Could it be that we are witness to what happens when a culture of entitlement is threatened?  Hard to say, you need to make up your own mind.

Below is Jeff’s response that board members never considered in their kangaroo court.  The primary argument is that confidentiality wasn’t breached as alleged – case dismissed.  Unfortunately for Jeff B., his first sin was embarrassing vanity.  Bet you didn’t know that was a crime.

 

Note: NW has withheld the referenced attachments for a later post.

Jeff B.’s Response

MaryLee’s Grievance (for reference)

Loose Ends

2012-02-23
tags:

You have to give credit to the bad actors, they think of everything.  Expelling a member isn’t enough anymore – you have to make sure they can’t come back to get you.  An obscure provision in the Grievance & Arbitration Policy Manual (Policy 4 – Section C), allows an expelled member to bring a grievance against another member(s).  Someone must have caught this and realized as written, Jeff B. would be allowed to bring claims against those who set him up.

Not a good thing at all.  Very bad indeed… What to do…what to do???

Then the brilliant thought comes.  Change the Policy Manual so that provision goes away.  Just get rid of it – entirely And that is exactly what Mr. Lippman proposed at the last board meeting.  After all, he is the chair of the Grievance and Arbitration committee.

Of course, there were other suggested changes to the Policy Manual; no one wants to be too obvious in the cover up.

Really?

Good news – The policy manual and bylaw changes that were proposed at the meeting were deferred to a committee.

Bad news – Fred B. was put in charge of the committee.

Good news- We hear that Mr. Estin may have a role on the committee.

Bottom-line for all conference attendees: pay especially close attention to the fine print this year.  All is not what it seems.

Mr. Lippman’s proposed change to Policy 4 Section C

MaryLee Rustand v. Jeff Banninster | Part III (long post)

2012-02-21

NAPPS BYLAWS

Article VII – Discipline

Section 2. No member may be expelled or suspended, and no membership terminated or suspended except pursuant to a procedure which is fair and reasonable, and is carried out in good faith.

Section 3. A member will not be expelled, suspended or terminated without first receiving written notice of the reasons therefor (sic). Said written notice shall be provided to the member not less than fifteen (15) days prior to the effective date of the expulsion, suspension or termination. The Board of Directors are authorized to decide that the proposed expulsion, suspension, or termination should not take place, or that such action is fair and reasonable taking into consideration all the relevant facts and circumstances.

Article VIII – Special Meetings

Section 3.  Special meetings of the board shall be held upon call of the President or at the request of three directors. All directors will be notified of special board meetings. The Agenda for a special board meeting will include only those topics where a timely resolution is in the best interest of NAPPS, and in which the membership is better served by not waiting until the next regular board meeting.  Such minutes will be available to all members in the same manner as regular meetings.

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INTRODUCTION

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We chose to begin this post with a recital, in part, of certain NAPPS bylaws.  Bylaws are an organizations operating manual that define rules and procedures of how it conducts business.  We urge you to carefully read the (3) sections called out above, especially the parts in bold, underscore, and italics.  The NAPPS Watcher site exists because NAPPS has strong tendencies to frequently deviate from its policies and procedures.  The matter of MaryLee R. v. Jeff B. below illustrates this statement to the extreme but understand this is how business is being conducted in NAPPS.

Generally speaking, members are several steps removed from how the association is actually governed and most don’t take the time or trouble to get involved.  It’s not that they don’t necessarily care; they just leave it to others.  But whether you are here because of a regulatory/business interest in NAPPS, here for the drama, here because you care or because you’re worried – there is one common thread that ties all.

Process serving – until recently – has been a loosely regulated profession.  Sure, the patchwork of rules, procedures and statutes that process servers must navigate on a daily basis are complex and mind-boggling.  By joining a local, state or national association, like NAPPS, individuals and businesses are proclaiming that they care about rules and procedures – that the rule of law and constitutional rights are inherent in the business of serving process and deserve to be protected and preserved.  Most process servers take pride in the fine work they do.  Rules and procedures matter.  Who believes that the regulatory environment that reared its head in New York and perhaps soon at the newly stood up Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will end there?

NAPPS struts on a national stage and increasing does so as a duplicitous fool.  Why does the elected and appointed leadership of NAPPS choose to not honor the bylaws and procedures they swore an oath to? In our limited experience and knowledge, it does so for one of two reasons:

1. Arrogance-ignorance: they do what they do because they can and will continue to do so until they can’t.

2. Self dealing: their moral compass is skewed allowing justification for certain members to put their interests above the association.

NAPPS has become obsessed with controlling its public image.  The picture it paints is quite different from the mess that exists behind the curtain.  Cracks in the veneer are exposing the rot.  NAPPS purports to be a professional trade association and as long as that is the case, NAPPS Watcher will report deviations from that standard.

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THE MATTER OF MARYLEE VS. JEFF B

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This post focuses on what the association bylaws and policy manual say about how a grievance is to be administered versus what actually happened.  Our research reveals the deliberate steps Mr. Admin and Mr. Yellon took to deviate from the published guidelines that ensured Jeff B.’s ouster from NAPPS was absolute.  Bringing a false claim without standing wasn’t enough – rules had to be violated to ensure it also happened very quickly.

SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

Oct 3rd 2011 – Jeff B. makes his facebook comment post

Oct 4th 2011 – Someone from Bob M’s poker group prints out a copy of the post

Oct 19th 2011 – The date of the letter MaryLee signed

Nov 5th 2011 – Board meeting Las Vegas, NV

8:00am – 9:15am | 1st Executive Session meeting

Jeff B. isn’t present for roll call and receives a call from Larry Yellon who informs him that he needs to show up right aways because they need to discuss a grievance matter concerning him.  No specific details are provided.  Jeff B. never shows up.  In the meeting, Larry Y. briefs the board about MaryLee’s letter.  Ron E. makes motion to expel Jeff B. and Eric V. seconds.  All this was done without Jeff B. even having received a copy of the grievance.  Executive session ends inconclusively other than to hold a second session later in the day.

9:30am – 5:50pm | Scheduled Board Meeting

MaryLee is present.

6:00pm | 2nd Executive Session meeting

Larry Y. informs Jeff that the board will discuss the matter put before it by MaryLee.  Larry Y. requests Jeff B. leave the room so the board can discuss the matter.  Jeff refuses to leave stating his right as a board member to remain in attendance.  Because of his refusal to leave, it was voted that the matter go to the Grievance & Arbitration committee for consideration. Jeff B. receives a copy of MaryLee’s letter.

Jeff B. raises a conflict of issue with Jack Lippman (G& A chairperson) heading up the grievance panel, that bad blood still exists between them given Jack’s loss to Jeff in the last election.  Larry Y. acknowledges the conflict and suggests that Eric V. can handle it.  Jeff B. requests additional time to provide a response and is granted an additional two weeks.  Jeff B. was never provided with confirmation about Eric V. nor what the response date was*.

* A dispute later arose over the exact date the response was due.  It was later argued, in an email, by Mr. Admin that it wasn’t necessary to put in writing since Jeff B. was present at the time.  This is important because Jeff B. calculated a response date of Dec 6th while Mr. Admin calculated the date as Dec 2nd.  Additionally, it turned out that Eric V. was never assigned the matter, it remained with Jack L. but no one ever told Jeff B. that.

Dec 6th 2011

Jeff B. submits his response to Eric V and calls to confirm receipt.

Eric V. never informs Jeff B. that he is not the grievance chair or that a special meeting had already been held where certain board members voted to expel him.  Jeff B. files an appeal.

Dec 27th 2011 | Special Meeting Held

The board convenes another special meeting to hear Jeff B.’s appeal.  The appeal is narrow in scope –whether to allow Jeff’s response to be considered timely.  Jeff B. is on the phone call and presents his case.  Later that day, he receives an email from Jack L. stating that his appeal is denied thus letting stand the previous vote expelling Jeff B.  At no time does the board discuss the merits of the grievance or Jeff’s response.  In fact, some board members may have never seen Jeff’s response.

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NAPPS GRIEVANCE PROCESS FAILS

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The process to oust Jeff B. from NAPPS was about as egregious as they get. NW is hard pressed to find a single instance where Larry Y., Mr. Admin, or Jack L. actually followed any published policy.  They made the shit up as they went, include the grievance letter.  The board went along complicit in the conspiracy – a knowing violation of their oath to the association.

Mr. Yellon, for being such a clever guy – you missed a few things (knowingly?) in your rush to boot Jeff B. from the association.

1. MaryLee didn’t write the letter.  Are you sure you didn’t know that?  Others knew.

2. Even if she had, you or your parliamentarian should have know that she had no standing to bring a grievance under Policy 3B (violation of standards of confidentiality).  The policy is clear, ONLY a board member can bring a claim under Policy 3B.  And the letter states just that – ‘..that the matters I have raised be brought before the Board in Executive Session by a member of the Board.’   That didn’t happen – no board member brought that conversation to the floor.  The grievance was ALWAYS framed as MaryLee vs. Jeff B.

3. After your attempt to blind side Jeff B. failed in executive session the morning of Nov 5th, the board voted to move the matter to the G&A committee where the claim fell under Policy 4B, unprofessional conduct.  The grievance was no longer a board only action (Policy 3B).

4. Despite your acknowledgement of the conflict of interest with Jack L., there was no good faith effort to move the matter to Eric V. as you indicated.  Further Eric V. never let Jeff B. know he wasn’t in charge of the grievance.  That makes Eric V. complicit as well in this affair.

5. You scheduled at least (2) Special Meetings that appear to have had only one agenda item, an executive session to address the grievance.  Those meetings were in direct violation of Article VIII of the NAPPS bylaws and a gross departure from their intended purpose.  In addition, at least one of these meetings wasn’t properly noticed – the one held to vote Jeff B. off the island. By definition, Special Meetings are to be noticed to ALL board members.  Someone forgot to extend the meeting notice to Jeff B. who was still on the board at the time.

6. Minutes of these Special Meetings are to be made available to the members – that’s what the bylaws say.  In the most recent board meeting in Florida on Feb 4th, minutes of (2) special meetings were approved but those meetings were different than the special meetings held to address Jeff B.  Why are those special meetings minutes being withheld from the association (and the board)?  Why weren’t they included the board package as well?

7. The appeal process was faulty.  Instead of adhering to the policy and scheduling the discussion for the next board meeting, you called a Special Meeting.  Again, this is a significant departure from the association’s policies and procedures.  For something as important as an appeal with a member potentially being expelled, it would only seem appropriate to ensure the process was followed correctly.  On your watch and in your leadership, you didn’t even bother.

Policy No. 4 – Grievance & Arbitration

I-4 (e) The Chairperson shall submit the appeal and all documentation to the Board at the next regularly scheduled board meeting for a ruling, which ruling shall be deemed final and not subject to further appeal.

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IN CLOSING

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We end this post where we began – the bylaws.  Nothing about the process afforded Jeff B. was fair or conducted in good faith. Nothing.  The relevant facts were never debated or discussed.  Someone wanted Jeff B. out of NAPPS right quick and that’s what happened; the entire board provided the forum and breached bylaw and policy to get there.

Bylaws exist for a reason.  If a member needs to go, there is a process for that to happen.  To knowingly breach that process (especially when you didn’t have to) calls into question much more than judgment or moral character, it begs the question – what was Jeff on to???

Jeff’s response will be posted in the next installment.

Article VII – Discipline

Section 2. No member may be expelled or suspended, and no membership terminated or suspended except pursuant to a procedure which is fair and reasonable, and is carried out in good faith.

Section 3. A member will not be expelled, suspended or terminated without first receiving written notice of the reasons therefor (sic). Said written notice shall be provided to the member not less than fifteen (15) days prior to the effective date of the expulsion, suspension or termination. The Board of Directors are authorized to decide that the proposed expulsion, suspension, or termination should not take place, or that such action is fair and reasonable taking into consideration all the relevant facts and circumstances.

Article VIII – Special Meetings

Section 3.  Special meetings of the board shall be held upon call of the President or at the request of three directors. All directors will be notified of special board meetings. The Agenda for a special board meeting will include only those topics where a timely resolution is in the best interest of NAPPS, and in which the membership is better served by not waiting until the next regular board meeting.  Such minutes will be available to all members in the same manner as regular meetings.

Your Support

2012-02-18

Two weeks ago, daily readership of NAPPS Watcher was right at 10% of NAPPS membership.  That number rose significantly this last week with the number reaching almost 20% of the membership.  We know not all readers are NAPPS members or even process servers (more on that later but think non-court agencies) Your efforts in getting the word out are to be applauded – we operate on a shoe string budget, rely heavily on grassroots socialization and lack a glossy publication.

Whatever you’re doing, keep at it.  A little birdie flew in today with some gossip we don’t know quite what to make of (meaning we don’t know if it’s from friend or foe).  Puppet Master is making house calls in the greater St. Louis area targeting those who dare to publish what we publish.  Silly person; we are right here, we are over there, we are everywhere where there is a process server who cares.

Next week, we get us some insurance.  The heat is on folks.

This & That

2012-02-15

GIVING CREDIT DUE
The special meeting minutes regarding the email vote to appoint Jillina A. Kwiatkowski (NY) to the board were distributed in the board package at the last meeting.  It’s good to see such detail being provided.

Summary of the vote:
4 – Yea        (Mike C. – Ron E. – John P. – Eric V.)
0 – Nay
2 – Abstentions  (David N. – Steve J.)
1 – Absent    (Bob M. – no proxy voting allowed, sorry Bob)

WHAT IS NAPPS?  (a travel deal site?)
In Mr. Admin’s now infamous newsletter article, he took a big swing and totally missed the opportunity to clarify what NAPPS stands for and what its stated purpose is.  And continuing with the identity crisis theme, one only has to take a quick gander at the NAPPS website to determine the following:

Since the beginning of this year
- 29 Travel Deals posted

-  1 Public Relations post

- 0 Promotion & Growth posts

- 0 National Relations posts

- 0 Legislative posts
Even when logged in, there are no legislative updates other than a mention about Arizona proposing an e-service rule change.  And why is that behind a log-in?

Other process serving sites and blogs do a much better job defining what NAPPS is (read: should be) and calling attention to important pieces of legislation that members should be aware of.  You’re just not going to find them on the NAPPS website.  However, if you’re looking for travel deals, go no further…

MARYLEE v. JEFF B. | PART III
Our third installment will post this week and the focus will be on process, procedure and conflicts of interest.  For example, Mr. Yellon decided the person best able to head up the investigation be none other than Mr. Jack Lippman – the same person Jeff B. beat out for president in 2010.  Check back then.

Mr. ADMIN’s AMEX Card (also posted to Working Stories page)

2012-02-10

This one isn’t going to turn out good for anyone. A big fight is just beginning to brew over Mr. Admin’s personal AMEX card being used for NAPPS business purposes. This practice has been going on for a number of years and while there have been rumblings of improper use, nothing has ever come of it. Well, all that’s about to change. Here is how we understand the program works. Note that some of this information has come from Mr. Admin himself.

Mr. Admin pays NAPPS bills – not the treasurer. He pays some of these bills with his personal AMEX card. He also uses this same card when traveling on NAPPS business. When it comes time to pay his AMEX, Mr. Admin has his staff cut a NAPPS check to AMEX to pay the statement.

This practice presents a conflict even assuming for a moment that all Mr. Admin’s charges on his personal AMEX card are proper expenses of NAPPS.

1. There is no need to pay NAPPS bills with Mr. Admin’s credit card – the NAPPS office can simply write a check.


2. Should Mr. Admin incur costs while traveling on NAPPS business, the proper accounting would be for him to turn in an expense report to NAPPS requesting reimbursement.


3. NAPPS should NEVER write a NAPPS check payable to AMEX – it’s not their bill or responsibility, it’s Mr. Admin’s.


4. Under the current arrangement, AMEX points and/or cash rebates accrue to Mr. Admin personally – not NAPPS. That is not only wrong, that is unethical and inappropriate unless properly disclosed and agree to in writing. It’s NAPPS member’s money paying these bills, not Mr. Admin.


5. Get a NAPPS credit card for NAPPS business travel – avoid the conflict of interest.


6. All paid AMEX statements should be the property of NAPPS, not Mr. Admin. How else would an auditor, treasurer, or heck, even a president like Jeff B. know what the check was cut for if there isn’t any backup. Those records belong to the association.


7. Who reviews the AMEX statement to ensure the charges are appropriate? At this time, no one does – there is no check and balance on this practice.

Treasurer Steve Janney made a recommendation at the last board meeting (Feb 4 2012) that NAPPS take action to get its own credit card so the current practice can be discontinued. When the matter came up for discussion, NOT ONE BOARD MEMBER TOOK UP THE DISCUSSION TO THE FLOOR. IT DIED THERE.  Mr. Janney is to be given credit for even raising the issue publicly but note how caution he is in his wording.

Is Mr. Admin is billing NAPPS for non-NAPPS personal expenses through his use of his AMEX card? Mr. Admin uses AMEX points for hotel suite upgrades and first class travel. Mr. Admin is now fighting member requests to see copies of these AMEX statements and as a result, the association has retained counsel to advise the board on what to do.

If we are to take Mr. Admin at face value and believe all his charges are for appropriate NAPPS expenses, then why would any reasonable person refuse to provide those records when requested? A better question perhaps is why hasn’t the treasurer or the president been able to gain access to these AMEX statements? Is it for a lack of asking or have then been refused too?

Either way, it is our belief that NAPPS shouldn’t be providing counsel for Mr. Admin unless his contract specifically requires it.  Mr. Admin has been offered a gracious and face-saving way out by Mr. Janney and he’s refused the offer.  It would be a travesty if members are denied access to these financial records because of a legal opinion – paid for by the way with members dollars.

MaryLee Rustand Gary Crowe vs. Jeff Bannister – PART II

2012-02-07

The more NAPPS Watcher learns about the orchestrated ouster and public disgracing of Jeff B., the sadder we become.  Can NAPPS, a once-proud association founded all those years ago with big dreams and visions have fallen this far to become the narrow-minded, fearful organization that exists today?  Process servers by their nature are fiercely independent minded, hard-working folks who aren’t afraid to speak their minds, or haven’t been until now.

This much is clear: several members of the NAPPS leadership group are making an example of Jeff B. and the tragic thing is that Jeff is a fall guy, he was deemed an easy target. Over time, readers will see for themselves that the issue is larger than him.  There exists an entire cast of characters that warrant their own deck of wanted cards. Jeff B. just happened to call a spade a spade and in doing so, crossed some sort of invisible line that one’s not supposed to do when in the secret club.

NAPPS members beware; speaking the truth is a discouraged activity. Doing so can get you expelled should you cross the wrong person.

But despite this environment of fear, the pieces begin to fall into place. With the backdrop of this grievance, Mr. Admin’s newsletter piece now makes perfect sense.  He needs to cover his tracks because his fingerprints are all over this grievance, literally.  Heck, we’d go so far as to say that the letter/grievance is an artifact solely of Mr. Admin’s doing and that MaryLee just signed the thing that was put in front of her.

Isn’t that true Gary Crowe, NAPPS member since 1996? Or is MaryLee just making that up too? The truth is a very dangerous thing indeed.


CLICK HERE FOR A COPY OF MARYLEE RUSTAND’s LETTER TO NAPPS PRESIDENT, LARRY YELLON
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This letter resulted in Jeff Bannister’s expulsion from NAPPS. We encourage you to read through the document and in doing so, to keep an open mind. Additional facts will be provided that are intriguing to say the least.

NOTE: The last page of the letter is an attachment consisting of a printout of a Facebook comment page. Several names have been redacted to protect their identity since they were not specifically called out in the letter.

ReplyTo: Follow The Money

2012-02-03

Dear Follow The Money:

Since we weren’t able to reply to your email, consider this our response to your hushmail message:

Yes, always follow the money.  We suspect that is why a proper audit* has never been conducted despite the membership passing conference resolutions demanding such on not one but two separate occasions.

There may be a business item on the agenda this weekend that seeks to take steps to move away from the current arrangement.  If so, this represents a significant step forward to removing this terrible and unnecessary conflict.

The story will develop.  Thank you for the comment and the specifics, they are helpful to our credibility.

NW

*NAPPS recently engaged the services of a Portland based CPA firm to review certain accounting processes and procedures employed by Mr. Admin’s office.  That engagement is fairly standard but it falls short of an audit.  In fact, the accountant went on record to state, 

“We were not engaged to and did not conduct an audit,..”