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Guest post: Write-in candidates for ATA President-Elect and Director September 22, 2019

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA.

Dear ATA colleagues,

As many of you are aware, a group of us have been quite vocal about the issue of decoupling, specifically regarding the ATA Board diluting a membership right that is clearly granted in the Bylaws. Although the Board has agreed to postpone the effective date of decoupling until January 1, 2021, they have not formally agreed to seek membership approval in the form of a Bylaws amendment. We have attempted to dialog with the Board and have been rebuffed through various means, including being told that we had 6 years to bring this issue up, and that we were “too late”.

As a result, I am pleased to ask your support for Jill R. Sommer and I running as write-in candidates for the following positions:

President-elect: Robert Sette

Director (3-year term): Jill R. Sommer

The prime concern we have is to ensure that the voice of members is heard. You may have received messages before prior Board meetings saying “We are listening”. I guarantee you that if we are elected, we will hear your concerns, and our hearing will not be selective.

Our “platform” covers the following:

    1. Membership vote on decoupling: We support holding a Bylaws amendment vote as a prerequisite for opening the ATA certification exam to non-members, as well as an assurance that no member funds will be used to support non-members taking the exam.
    2. Consideration of member input and dissenting views: The Board has rebuffed member input on significant issues and has squelched dissenting views. Though policies and procedures are important, if they are to be enforced, they need to be communicated in a timely and effective manner.
    3. Continued inclusion of interpreters: We are a diverse association in terms of the languages we all work with, as well as the segments of the industry in which we work. Full-time interpreters, full-time translators, and all gradations in between deserve a voice in ATA affairs.
    4. We support more transparent, useful and timely information being provided to the membership. There is no reason that members should wait 3+ months for approval of the meeting minutes to learn factual information on action taken at ATA Board meetings. As a corollary, the policies according to which the Board operates should be easily available to the membership, notwithstanding confidentiality issues.
    5. Reform of the nominations process: We support the very recent Board action supporting multiple candidates for each elected office of the association. Diversity of views and “new blood” is very important in all director and officer positions, to avoid the leadership being monolithic (re: languages, policy positions, segment of the T&I industry, etc.).
    6. While this is not really a “plank” of our platform, Jill and I are both full-time freelancers, like a majority of our association.

In conclusion, I respectfully ask for your support for Jill and I for the specified positions. We are both available to answer any questions you may have.

Best regards,
Robert Sette, CT



1. Robin Bonthrone - September 23, 2019

Hi Jill, Does that mean you’re coming to Palm Springs after all?

Jill (@bonnjill) - September 23, 2019

No, unfortunately I still can’t afford it. Especially now that the early bird deadline has passed. I told Ted if I were elected (which, let’s face it, is a long shot) I would be happy to attend the Board meeting by Skype.

2. Robin Bonthrone - September 23, 2019

Pity. We’ll miss you. Maybe next year in Boston? At least that will be easier for you to get to.

Jill (@bonnjill) - September 23, 2019

I will definitely be in Boston. There were no flights to Palm Springs that didn’t necessitate an extra day staying somewhere or four hours in the car.

Jill (@bonnjill) - September 23, 2019

Thanks, Linda.

Robin Bonthrone - September 24, 2019

Yeah, I know the flight connections to Palm Springs suck. That’s why we’re flying to Vegas for a couple of days first (using airmiles and other points to get free flights and hotel room) and then driving down to Palm Springs. I think the lesson for the ATA is clear: never, ever organize a conference at a location that isn’t served by Southwest and other low-cost airlines! There’s no point in getting slightly lower hotel rates if they’re more than offset by more expensive travel costs.

Jill (@bonnjill) - October 7, 2019

Good news! Robert bought me a plane ticket with his miles, so if elected I will be flying to Palm Springs on Friday to be at the Board meeting.

3. Corinne McKay - September 25, 2019

Hi guys, just wanted to comment on the Palm Springs travel aspect and whether this location was a good idea. Interestingly enough, it looks like this conference is going to be larger than New Orleans (to our surprise!). So I actually think the lesson is that every location attracts a different type of crowd, and this time we have a lot of California folks who are going to drive there.

Jill (@bonnjill) - September 25, 2019

I’m glad to hear it worked for other people. I would have had to fly into Las Vegas for one night and then spend another night before flying home. I’m super bummed that I am going to miss it.

4. Corinne McKay - September 25, 2019

Sorry, one more thing! Jill, are you and Robert are aware that the Board meeting summary is available to members well before the minutes are approved? For example the summary of the August Board meeting was in the August 30 issue of Newsbriefs; you definitely don’t have to wait three months to find out what happened at the meeting.

Jill (@bonnjill) - September 25, 2019

I’ll let him know.

5. Robert Sette - September 25, 2019

Corinne: The summary is basically a revision of the agenda, changing “The Board will discuss…” to “The Board discusssed…” or “The Board decided…”.

Case in point: The date of record for this year’s elections. The Summary from early August says, “The Board set the date of record for the 2019 elections.”

Well for the general public’s information, the date of record was Monday, Sept. 23. I had to email HQ to find that out. What good does it do to provide that “summary” when it really contains no new information from the Agenda.

Ditto the list of new committee chairs, as well as many other items.

Why is the Board withholding this information? In particular, making the average member figure out who to email at HQ and then email them to ask for that information? It would seem disingenuous to conceal that information without any fathomable justification.

Robin Bonthrone - September 27, 2019

Robert: Was it any different when you yourself were an ATA Board member during the early 2000s? If it was different back then, how was it different? If not, what did you do back then to stop “the Board withholding this information”? Just asking…

rsette7 - September 28, 2019

Robin, we released minutes the same as is done now, after approval at the next meeting, and there were no summaries issued back then, I believe. I was always in favor of more information, and while minutes are a legal record of a meeting, there’s no logical reason to withhold factual information piecemeal.

Back then, if someone asked, I would do everything possible to get them the information. I was not the secretary or an officer, and additionally it was a different age, with the Internet in its relative infancy, and websites were much less comprehensive. Publication in the monthly Chronicle in most cases met the members’ needs.

Thanks for asking.
(also my apologies for not seeing this message sooner)

6. Robin Bonthrone - September 25, 2019

Jill, Is there anywhere where the issues in this “platform” are being/can be discussed openly? I have no problem with bringing this up in the ATATalk newsgroup, for example, but I’m not sure if that’s allowed under the rules for that newsgroup, and I also don’t want to put the other candidates for board and director positions at a disadvantage, considering that none of the other candidate positions have been discussed there. What I would want to avoid, though, is some sort of closed user group, which I would regard as incompatible with the open, transparent dialog needed to ensure inclusivity for the ATA members who will vote on the candidates. Thanks!

Jill (@bonnjill) - September 25, 2019

Good question! Yes, there is a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/atamembersvoice/) and they are discussing it on ATATalk as well.

Jill (@bonnjill) - September 25, 2019

I also plan to post a blog post on decoupling in a day or two here, and people will be welcome to debate things here.

7. Robin Bonthrone - September 25, 2019

But Jill, the FB group you link to is a closed group. That doesn’t look like the transparency you’re trying to promote. Please make this an open FB group so that all ATA members can view and/or participate and nobody gets the impression that there is some sort of sectarian discussion going on behind closed doors (which I’m sure you’re not trying to do!).
There hasn’t been any discussion on your “platform” on ATATalk so far, just on the general issue of decoupling, but I think this is a good time to start such a discussion, especially because it will necessarily be restricted to ATA members. And these issues are of legitimate interest to ATA members only.

rsette7 - September 28, 2019

Robin, it was decided to make it a closed group so that members would be free to discuss issues from our members’ perspective. Several officers wanted to join, in order to monitor and “correct any factual inaccuracies”. We (all the admins jointly decided this, with some dissent) felt that officers couldn’t “switch hats”. In fact, in the very conversation where Corinne was discussing this with me, I asked her a question from her perspective as just an ATA member, and she said “I’m the ATA President I can’t answer that”. And I confirmed to her that that proved our point.

Further (and this particular point is me speaking), ATA at the present time is not being that great at providing truthful information, to wit the statement; “After receiving feedback from members who felt that they were not sufficiently informed about the rationale for and implementation of opening the ATA certification exams to nonmembers”. I haven’t found any members who have told me they were requesting information in August on this issue. Of course, ATA did receive an attorney letter demanding a voice for voting members in the decoupling decision. Nowhere in that letter (it’s public, let me know if you’d like to see it and ATA’s mostly non-responsive response, or perhaps Jill can post it here) did we as for more information, yet ATA is embarking on this grand opinion conversion campaign, but for what purpose? No vote is schedule or discussed publicly, so what is their intent? To quash dissent? To tell us that even though we ordered salmon, they think that Ham(m) is really what we want?

How much money is ATA spending, all to avoid having a vote? All to DENY a voice to the voting membership?

And further, their 5-page FAQ has many factual inaccuracies. Stay tuned and we’ll be discussing them.

One more comment about our closed group: Try posting something against ATA decisions in there, and you will be jumped on. It’s an open forum, but at times, in name only. I don’t think anyone has outright said that they fully support decoupling, but they are welcome to say that.

But that’s ok, one way or another, either by petition from us or at the Board’s initiative (yeah, don’t hold your breath on that one), there will be a Bylaws vote in 2020. Just remember that the reason we are not voting on it in Palm Springs and healing this growing division in the Association is in front of you on the dais, at least until Friday October 25.

Robert Sette

8. Geoff Koby - October 5, 2019

Jill writes, “…a group of us have been quite vocal about the issue of decoupling”. However, the group did not acquire enough signatures on a petition drive to place a bylaws amendment on the ballot. I and others have asked how big this group is, particularly when one considers that the ATA Board must take into consideration the needs of its over 9000 members. Jill, how large a group are we talking about here?

Jill writes, “…they have not formally agreed to seek membership approval in the form of a Bylaws amendment.” and Mr. Sette writes “No vote is schedule or discussed publicly, so what is their intent?” A bylaws amendment that will give ATA voting members an opportunity to weigh in on the “decoupling” issue is on the agenda for the October ATA Board meeting in Palm Springs. I expect that it will be approved for the 2020 ballot. Such a bylaws amendment contradicts the argument that the ATA Board is not willing to let the members vote on this. The Board meets quarterly, so the October meeting is the first opportunity for the Board to take formal action.

Mr. Sette states “I haven’t found any members who have told me they were requesting information in August on this issue.” And yet, Mr. Sette himself brought up this issue at the Board’s August meeting, stating that he represented “several” members — therefore, the Board’s statement is accurate.

Dr. Geoff Koby
ATA Board member

Jill (@bonnjill) - October 6, 2019

Guest post means it was written by Robert. I’ll let him answer this. If I recall correctly, the petition would have met the required signatures, but they were told it was too late (by one day) to put it on the agenda so they stopped collecting signatures.

9. oiltranslator - October 7, 2019

See freelanceparty.org
The Hamm report is bought fraud and ASAE owns ATA.

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