Message from the President
February 4, 2022
Dear ACS Members,
Happy February to all – it is under 40 days until spring! Today I want to provide more background to the recent Board decision to hire FORIUS, a professional office management company to be our National Office staff.
It is understandable that many people are still confused and may have questions about the recent Board action. Misinformation and unfounded accusations are hurting our society. In some ways, the fervent uproar, from a few, has made this Board decision seem much more complicated than it really is. It is a well-researched, well-vetted and well-considered move to ensure the robustness of our society. Much of the tumult that you have seen or heard about started several months before there was any discussion of the professional office management company. The resignations of some longtime members happened in November 2021 – well before any discussion about the office management company and were related to the Marketplace concept being placed on hold till more information about the Society’s liabilities could be examined.
It is not my aim in this letter to explain the Marketplace concept. What I do want to say, is that this tumult seems to have found new ground by discoloring the Office management company decision.
When I accepted the role of the President of the ACS in August 2021, it was with the aim to do everything I can to enhance and ensure the mission and longevity of the ACS. In this vein, I anticipated that in my new role, I would find that the society had a solid track record of monthly reconciled bank statements, a full complement of clear, current and signed contracts with vendors and a transparency with the electronic Assets of the Society. Unfortunately, when I looked for the above, there were lapses in concrete measures of transparency, fiduciary tracking and a lack of centralized information.
At that moment, I could have emailed the entire society with alarm and accusations. But this is not constructive. We are volunteers and as the saying goes, “sometimes we are building the airplane while flying it”. I saw this as a moment where a qualitative rather than quantitative change could help the ACS. I wondered about whether professionalizing the ACS office could correct these deficiencies and give ACS volunteers added depth and breadth of support.
This idea was discussed by the full Board and a smaller subset of members that were on a Special Committee. The Special Committee can be a study group that examines an idea or concept and reports back to the larger Board. Since the idea of professionalizing the ACS office would mean moving away from our longtime model of a single part-time office manager, we did the research privately to avoid hurt feelings or the sense that this research was somehow directed at our 8 years in service office manager Steven Courtney. I want to clearly and emphatically state that the “secrecy” of this Special Committee was to avoid any personal conflict rather than engender it. It was done within our bylaws and traditions of our society.
Sometimes organizational changes mean substantive changes that could disrupt how the organization has run. The good news is that this change adds more services and depth of organization to the ACS rather than takes away something from us.
- We will now have a fulltime office presence, with personnel backup if someone is on vacation or is suddenly unable to perform their job.
- The phone will be answered 40 hours per week and directed to the proper channels.
- We will now have increased fiduciary accountability, backed by financial experts and robust monthly statements.
- We will have essential information about our society and its functioning passed from board member to board member, year to year rather than recreating the wheel.
- We will have much needed support for all of our volunteers through centralized record keeping and concretized procedures to efficiently transfer responsibility to a new officer and/or committee chair.
- We will have procedures for volunteer roles and Board member roles in place to ensure that if a member can’t fulfill their obligations that someone else can step into their shoes.
- We will have all documents and assets centrally located, including contract, account information and passwords.
- We will have an Executive Director rather than an Office manager, someone who will promote new ideas and help us grow the society. The Executive Director will help us reach OUR goals.
- We will have event planning experts help us plan events
- FORIUS will not be experts on conifers. This was never the reason for our exploration. They are experts on running the day-to-day operations of a national organization’s office.
- We as volunteers can fly higher and further with multiple people and years of expertise behind us. Let’s go farther!
You, as the members, elect a regional President and Director to be your eyes and ears and heart for the business of the ACS. And this decision to hire FORIUS was made after hundreds of hours of research, reviewing 14 companies, in-depth interviews with four companies and examining the pros/cons of this sort of change. The Board and I ask you to give us the benefit of the doubt and remember that each one of us is just like you, a conifer nut, a real person with the health and well being of the ACS at our heart. Why else would any one of us volunteer to be on the Board or be a regional officer?
I have attached the January 11, 2022 letter that I sent out here. Again – I hope that this background information helps to allay any worries and instead, let’s direct our passion to promoting the ACS rather than tearing down the volunteers who are working on behalf of the organization.
January 11, 2022 PREVIOUSLY EMAILED TO THE ACS MEMBERSHIP
Dear ACS Members,
Yesterday morning I planned to send my letter and press release regarding our hiring of FORIUS. However, you first received a letter that the Board was not aware of, and that looked like sanctioned communication from "the ACS". It is understandable that you have questions.
However, you first received a letter that the Board was not aware of, and that looked like sanctioned communication from "the ACS". It is understandable that you have questions.
The letter signed by David Olszyk and emailed on Monday, January 10th was alarming and promulgated a lot of misinformation. Unfortunately, David Olszyk, the immediate past President, who formally resigned his duties as of 11.19.2021, made a personal decision to misuse the sanctity of ACS electronic assets to disseminate his opinion of what is happening on the ACS Board of Directors without authorization or a full scope of information. Further troubling is the fact that this immediate past President, who should know the ACS Bylaws and Roberts Rules of Order, and in collusion with others, received and publicized confidential information from Board of Director Executive Sessions, which included business contracts and anonymous Board vote results.
The purpose of the forum is to allow members to constructively discuss conifers and ACS events. Yesterday, inappropriate posts to the ACS forum were reported. The forum has been taken down until the Board can address the misuse of this platform and set up guidelines for proper use. The remainder of the ACS website is fully functional.
What is true is the following:
- When the 2021 ACS Board was installed, it was found that there were few checks and balances, no monthly financial reports, and a lack of volunteer job descriptions such that no one could step into a position in a vacancy.
- The Board soon realized that the scope and complexity of the ACS was larger than the efforts of a single employee or volunteer and with permission from the full Board, a subcommittee evaluated the need for and subsequent selection of a Professional management company to be our central office.
- Unfortunately the resignations reinforced the need to move to a professional management company as we found ourselves dealing with key vacant positions.
- The decision to hire FORIUS as our new central office was done in full compliance with the ACS Bylaws and Policies and was approved by a Board vote. Due diligence and hundreds of collective hours were spent researching and thoughtfully considering this improvement to our society.
- The costs for our management company is very similar to our current arrangement but with enhanced services that will carry us into the future, including monthly activity and financial reports, meeting assistance, conference planning, email blasts, standardized procedures, and improved member involvement/engagement.
- Our management company will provide a team of staff for the ACS that gives us the depth of organization needed to cover vacations, medical leave, or emergencies of any staff or volunteers. We will have an Executive Director, administrative support, and an Accountant/Financial Manager. This depth of staffing will empower ACS volunteers to be more efficient, more creative, and more engaged on behalf of our society.
- FORIUS will bring their expertise to the day-to-day operation of the ACS while our robust membership, volunteers, and Board will continue to focus on our mission and be the conifer experts.
- Steven Courtney has served our organization well in the role of Office Manager for the past 8 years and he is assisting the ACS to transition the management activities to FORIUS beginning this week.
- The 990 tax return will be completed within the normal time frame.
The ACS Board is charged to do what is best for the good of the ACS, keeping in mind our fiduciary responsibilities, our efforts to satisfy and grow our membership and to uphold our mission as a plant society.
Please reach out to me if you have more questions. Either myself or another current Board member is available to talk or email with anyone who has more questions.
Jeff Harvey, ACS President