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To all MUFON: Democracy is not an alien being in MUFON

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  • Elaine Douglass
    The following analysis has been conducted by the Committee to Reform MUFON for the benefit of the Members of MUFON. Every effort has been made to ensure
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 21, 2011
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      The following analysis has been conducted by the Committee to Reform MUFON
      for the benefit of the Members of MUFON. Every effort has been made to
      ensure accuracy and sound judgment in this analysis.





      Democracy is not an alien being in MUFON



      In February, the Committee to Reform MUFON (CRM) began raising these
      questions:



      4Why can't the members of MUFON vote on who is on the Board of Directors?

      4Why do 9 people in MUFON get to appoint themselves to the Board?

      4Why is it none of MUFON's 2800 members has a chance of ever being on the
      Board?

      4Why is it the 2800 Members of MUFON have no say in how MUFON is run?



      Why? And why can't we change it? Why DON'T we change it? Why don't we get a
      system where anyone who has been a member of MUFON for, say, 5 years could
      run for the Board and we'd all vote on those people? The candidates could
      present themselves and we could ask questions. Then we would all vote. Why
      don't we have a democratic system like that in MUFON?



      As soon as CRM raised these issues, various people in MUFON responded with
      misleading statements. They said if MUFON changed its governing corporate
      document, MUFON would lose its tax exempt status and cease to be a
      non-profit organization. They also said changing the corporate documents
      would be extremely difficult and expensive.



      Misinforming statements

      Here are some examples. On Feb. 5, Terry Groff, assistant director of
      investigations for Texas, wrote:



      MUFON is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization. Any attempt at restructuring or
      reformation would violate its terms and MUFON would have to give up its
      non-profit status.



      On Feb. 3, Fletcher Gray, assistant state director for Texas,
      wrote:



      MUFON is a 501(C)3 organization doing business under the authority set down
      with the IRS. Changes to these guidelines could cause MUFON to lose their
      501(C)3 status. The undertaking. . .would be an enormous task not to say an
      expensive one.



      Proving that the Directors of MUFON do not always have a firm
      grip on the truth, the following statement is attributed to Board member and
      Chief of Investigations Marie Malzahn in February:



      This [MUFON] is a non-profit organization. . . .we must follow the federal
      guidelines in order to keep our non-profit status. . .





      Originally, MUFON was supposed to have an elected Board

      The Committee to Reform MUFON knew that these statements were not correct.
      We knew the organization would not lose its non-profit status if it changed
      the Articles of Incorporation to provide for member election of the Board of
      Directors, and we knew it would not be difficult. But just to be doubly
      sure, we consulted an attorney knowledgeable in the law of non-profit
      corporations.



      In the process we learned something interesting: until 1982 MUFON's
      corporate charter (Articles of Incorporation) DID provide for member
      election of the Board of Directors. Here's what the corporate charter once
      said:



      ARTICLE 8: The business of the association shall be transacted by 3
      trustees to be elected by the members of the association [i.e., the Members
      of MUFON].



      And of course, at that time (prior to 1982) MUFON was a tax-exempt
      corporation, just like it is today. In other words, democracy is not the
      alien, never-before-seen-in-MUFON, tax-exempt-destroying being some people
      want us to think it is. Far from it! Walt Andrus, founder of MUFON, intended
      for the Members of MUFON to vote for the Board of Directors and he wrote the
      instructions for voting into Article 8 of the original corporate charter.



      We lost our voting rights in 1982

      In 1982, the then Board amended Article 8 to do away with member voting.
      They replaced it with a new Article 8 in which the 9 members of the Board of
      Directors vote for themselves, as follows:



      ARTICLE 8 [current version]: The business of the corporation shall be
      transacted by the Executive Board composed of the International Director,
      Deputy Director of Administration, Deputy Director of Business Management,
      Secretary, and Treasurer, to be elected by the members of the Board of
      Directors.



      (The MUFON corporate Articles of Incorporation, as well as the corporate
      By-laws, can be seen at www.mufon.com <http://www.mufon.com/> under "About"
      and "Our organization.")



      Would it be it difficult and expensive to change MUFON's
      corporate documents? Not at all. All it would take is to file a paper with
      the state of Texas, where MUFON is registered as a corporation. It would not
      even be necessary to have the assistance of an attorney, and if an attorney
      was involved it would take about 2 hours of attorney time ($600), according
      to the attorney CRM consulted.



      In other words, with the stroke of a pen the MUFON Board could change the
      corporate charter to restore the vote to the Members of MUFON-just like they
      changed the rules in 1982 to do away with the vote.



      With the stroke of a pen the MUFON Board could change MUFON from an
      autocratic to a democratic organization. With the stroke of a pen we could
      have a NEW MUFON in which the Members would have a voice in the direction of
      our organization.



      Elections for the Board WERE held in the 1980s

      Not only that, but it seems there can be member voting for the Board of
      Directors even without a change in the corporate charter because in the
      1980s there was. In 1988 and 1989, and possibly in other years, Walt Andrus
      conducted elections for Regional Directors who then served on the Board of
      Directors. Nominations were submitted by state directors and any member of
      MUFON who wanted to run for Regional Director/Board of Directors submitted
      their name to their State Director.



      In the spring of 1988 Walt conducted an election for Central Regional
      Director. MUFON members from 19 states voted on a ballot enclosed in the May
      issue of the MUFON Journal. In the Director's Message in June, Walt
      announced that "George Coyne was seated on the Board of Directors after his
      election to the position of Central Regional Director by popular vote of the
      members in the central states." George Coyne was at that time the state
      director of Michigan and, according to Walt, he had "served as assistant
      chairman of the very successful and professionally managed MUFON 1986 UFO
      Symposium in Michigan."



      In the spring of 1989 Walt held another election, this time for Eastern
      Regional Director/Board of Directors. "Every member is encouraged to vote,"
      Walt wrote in the Director's Message, "since this is your opportunity to
      select the person you feel will best represent the eastern states on the
      MUFON Board of Directors."



      In May, Walt announced that Florida state director had won the election
      after "receiving more than half the total votes cast. Therefore he will be
      representing the eastern region of states on the Board of Directors for the
      next four years."



      Democracy not an alien being in MUFON

      As can be seen, without difficulty, and in short order, we could
      have a democratic MUFON. That was the vision of MUFON's founder Walt Andrus,
      and MUFON would not lose its tax-exempt status. It is time for change in
      MUFON, and this is the change we need.

      The Board of Directors' idea of change

      In the meantime, last week ID Clifford Clift sent out an email (June 10)
      acknowledging that change is needed on the Board of Directors. And here is
      his idea of the kind of change needed: Clifford said the Board is looking
      for 3 people willing to serve on the Board for up to 2 years without a vote
      on the Board, as long as they are willing to work, pay their own expenses,
      and donate money to MUFON.



      Cliff called these positions "interim" positions, by which he meant a kind
      of try-out or audition for the Board. Cliff did not say this, but if history
      is a guide these Board try-outs will be required to sign a paper saying they
      agree the Board can dismiss them at any time without cause.



      With this announcement from Cliff, the Board is offering nothing to the
      Members of MUFON. As in the past, the Board and only the Board will appoint
      the 3 new members. In the past, however, when an individual was appointed,
      they became a real voting Board member, not easily dismissed before their
      term of office expired. The 3 new interim members, whether they come from
      the Board's inner circle, as in the past, or from farther afield, will be
      carefully screened and they will have less independence and be more
      compliant than a normal Board member since they are on "try-out." In other
      words, they will be debilitated Board members. There are no advantages in
      this arrangement, either for the try-outs, or for the Members of MUFON.



      The MUFON Board does no fund raising

      For years we have been told about the financial contributions
      made by members of the Board. It is implied that, Sure, anyone in MUFON
      could be a member of the Board as long as they are willing to contribute
      money to MUFON annually. In this vein, Cliff reports in the June MUFON
      Journal that the Board of Directors contributed $15,000 to MUFON in 2010.



      $15,000? That is a pittance compared to the amounts of money
      MUFON could potentially raise if our organization were mobilized to do
      professional fund raising! Not that professional fund raising is easy. It
      requires a sustained, long term commitment to reach out to the foundation
      world and to people in New York and Hollywood, but that is exactly the kind
      of professional fund raising that is done by every successful non-profit in
      this country. It is also the kind of fund raising that has never been
      undertaken by any MUFON Board of Directors, as far as we know.



      In other words, we have a Board which does no outside fund
      raising, leaving MUFON in a perpetual hole; the Board periodically kicks in
      tiny amounts such as $15,000 and the Members of MUFON are then told we must
      have this Board because this Board gives money. There is something wrong
      with this picture. Similarly, we were told MUFON must get in bed with Robert
      Bigelow because he was the ONLY person who would give substantial amounts to
      MUFON. Really? Was anyone else asked? Can this Board provide a list of
      funding sources approached in the last two years?



      Please note that $15,000 represents an average contribution per
      Board member of $1700. Is that enough to purchase control of MUFON? In the
      meantime, the 2900 Members of MUFON collectively contributed $160,000 at
      minimum, not counting state assessments and other given monies. How is it
      that $15,000 buys a voice in MUFON and $160,000 doesn't?



      Why did Cliff announce the Board is looking for "interim"
      members? Previous new Board members were drawn from the Board's inner
      circle. Is there no one left in the inner circle? Do some members of the
      Board wish to leave and there is no one to take their place? What about the
      position of International Director? The word is Clifford Clift intends to
      resign. In the past, the ID job always went to someone on the Board. Word
      was that longtime Board member Jan Harzan would be the next International
      Director, but now it is known he will not be taking that position. In other
      words, this Board is unable to generate a new leader for the organization.
      Fine. Will this Board, then, permit the Membership of MUFON to generate our
      own leaders?



      The answer is: Hold elections

      Hold elections for the Board of Directors and the International Director.
      With the stroke of a pen, change the Articles of Incorporation. Restore Walt
      Andrus' original vision of democracy in MUFON. Provide MUFON with legitimate
      leadership elected by the Members of MUFON. That is the solution to the
      problem.





      Submitted by the Committee to Reform MUFON

      Steven Bass

      Marilyn Carlson

      Elaine Douglass

      Sandy Gonzalez

      Bill McNeff

      Marlee Spendlove

      Ron Spicer





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