55 ASMP November 1996
November 14, 1996
The following is a report of recent developments at ASMP as reported in the NY
newsletter, written by Barry Tannenbaum.
After the Referendum:
Board to Continue Support of MPCA
by Barry Tannenbaum
With the MPCA referendum resulting in a split vote - the "cease funding"
statement was approved by 143 votes, the "continue support" statement by
nine votes -- ASMP president Reagan Bradshaw's assertion in the October issue
of the ASMP Bulletin that ASMP is "faced with an apparent quandary" is
surely the MPCA understatement of the year.
Bradshaw's evaluation of the situation is that "[t]he two
propositions are not mutually exclusive" and "the passage of one... does
not invalidate the other."
He doesn't quite explain how this is true, but goes on to say that
both sides "must...sit down together to heal this rift in the Society...."
When the National board did sit down, in Orlando on September 18
and 19, its solution to the problem left many ASMP members unsatisfied and
angry. "They have totally ignored the petitioners," said Jim Pickerell, one
of the leading proponents of the cease-funding effort.
Bradshaw has said that "[i]f the Board terminate[s] direct
financial support of MPCA operations, it will satisfy the cease-funding
proponents. That action would not in itself preclude accommodation of the
supporters of the second proposition, which calls for continued operation
of MPCA. ASMP can continue to nurture the development of MPCA without
giving it direct financial support."
He seemed optimistic about MPCA's success. "The fact is," he said,
"MPCA is now where we wanted it to be eighteen months ago. Recent
restructuring of the AGT-CCC-MPCA partnership has pared down the role of
MPCA to the one thing it can do best with the least capital
expenditure-solicit new members and build the image database....[N]ow as
the ASMP electorate has passed a referendum demanding its independence, I
hope MPCA is ready to be launched on its own."
Jim Pickerell attended the MPCA discussion at the Orlando board
meeting. "Dick Weisgrau outlined the following three options that he felt
were open to the board," Pickerell reported. Those options were: Take MPCA
as it exists and sell it; support MPCA to the degree the board sees fit,
which might include increasing financial support; or follow the letter of
the petitioners' language. If the latter were chosen, Weisgrau said, the
enterprise [MPCA] would fail, the board would look foolish and he would
judge such an act irresponsible. If the board chose to do it he would no
longer be able to work with the board.
Pickerell reports that a lengthy discussion followed, and then
David MacTavish introduced a motion. "What we have done (with MPCA up to
now) is correct," MacTavish said. "We should take a stand that may not be
popular. MPCA is the only way." The motion called for the board to
authorize the executive director and legal counsel to expend the time
necessary to protect and promote the assets of ASMP and MPCA. It called for
executive board oversight and development of performance goals to be
reviewed by the board at the Spring '97 board meeting. The motion also
allocated up to $20,000 in funds for MPCA in fiscal '97, and allowed that
ASMP staff can respond to inquiring parties regarding MPCA, and also that
MPCA may keep in the ASMP offices such materials and furnishings as
Bradshaw told us that while the board is going ahead with support
of MPCA, there are "some staff cutbacks," and he feels that the authorized
$20,000 will not be spent. "Weisgrau says he's not going to request any
money at any time," Bradshaw said.
"I feel we have an obligation to those, even if they're not a
majority, who want to have MPCA continue to develop. My position is we
should continue to support it to the extent that we can to protect ASMP's
investment and protect the interests of the members who belong to MPCA."
He added that "we should not spend that $20,000 in deference to the
wishes of those who voted for the petitioners' position."
When we contacted Dick Weisgrau, he said that he "never used the
words 'the board would look foolish.' I never said that." Jim Pickerell,
however, stands by his report. "I was sitting one person away from him,"
Pickerell told us, "and I was taking notes. He said it."
Weisgrau's statement that he would no longer be able to work with
the board if they followed the petitioners' language was not, he said, a
threat to resign. "I have no option for resigning. I have a contract. I
can't resign." (Weisgrau's contract is effective until December 31, 1997.)
Weisgrau's point, he said, was that option number three - to let MPCA
"wither and die from benign neglect" - was, to him, "an irresponsible act on
the part of the board, and I could not serve an irresponsible board....I
meant that if that was an option they'd select, then when my contract was
up, I would have no intention of working with this board." He said he was
making it "absolutely clear" that he would have "no desire to renew my
contract with a board that would not take a decisive action."
Even if the decisive action were to pull the plug on MPCA? "That's
fine," he said. "You have to do something. Whatever you decide is fine with
me, but do something."
On the issue of the $20,000, Weisgrau said, "I never asked for any
money, I didn't need the money. They authorized it, but they didn't
allocate it. I don't have it to spend. I'd have to go back to the executive
board and submit a plan for how I was going to use it, [but] I have no
intention of doing that because I don't need it." Further, he said he
believed that "the five members of the executive board have no intentions
of allocating it."
Like Bradshaw, Weisgrau was optimistic about MPCA. "On November 11
the first promotional materials of an $80,000 campaign start to mail. The
CD ROMs are off the presses at the same time, and they're going into the
marketplace. You've got 600-some photographers who signed contracts, 200
with images on the CD ROM. It's already started to generate revenue, and at
this point it will start to generate [more]...."
At this point, he said, ASMP could very well sell MPCA and have
accomplished its goal. "We set out to build a system where a photographer
could enter a digital marketing and distribution system at [his] will,
where collective licensing would be the order of the day versus traditional
stock licensing. We've done that now. The photographer can control the
pricing - the system is there....ASMP has done what it said it wanted to do.
It built this system in which photographers have control and get a 70
percent return....[A]s far as I'm concerned, we've accomplished the
objective. We did not start out to build a business. We started out to
create a system where photographers would get a better return and maintain
control of their work."
Weisgrau said he has "no desire to be the chief executive officer
of the MPCA in the future. The sooner I can divest myself of this
responsibility the happier I'll be. If I could get out from underneath this
tomorrow, I'd be the happiest man in the world. Not that I don't think it's
a good thing. It's just not [what I want to do]."
Several ASMP members are angered by the actions and statements of
board members and ASMP staff. Gary Gladstone commented, "For Dick Weisgrau
to have said that the board would look foolish is like a doctor not
admitting he's left an instrument sewed up inside a patient because he'll
look foolish. They want to avoid embarrassment at all cost - it's more
important to not be embarrassed than to be right.
"I think that by suggesting that one of the consequences of paying
attention to members' wishes is that he won't renew his contract is as if
he's playing on the neurotic insecurities of the board members. This is an
unforgivable negotiating foray, and I think it's way out of line for an
executive director to address the board that way.
"He is developing and promoting policy and holding his position
hostage. It's administrative extortion."
Gladstone felt that the board's "arrogant and dangerous position
exists because they have not been able to convince the membership at large
of their 'truth' or the value of their position through informed
"I'd like to see the results of a single ballot to all ASMP members
that asked: 'Do you support ASMP's continued support of MPCA, yes or no.'
Let's ask the members what they really want in one direct, unequivocal
National's MPCA Decisions
by Barry Tannenbaum
Attributing their decisions to National's response to the MPCA referendum,
two ASMP members have resigned from local chapter positions and one has
quit the Society completely.
Douglas Peebles resigned his post as president of the Hawaii
chapter, noting that he had been watching the decisions and operation of
current ASMP executives and the board with "increasing alarm."
In his resignation statement, Peebles wrote, "I have seen promises
not kept, critics trashed and expelled from office, and finally a
referendum ignored....I do not know if what [the] board has done is even
legal. I do believe it is...unethical."
He said, "I feel at this time I must resign my position as chapter
president" as he no longer wished "to be in anyway connected with this
He concluded by saying, "However, I still have hope for the future.
Actually I have a plan. Dick Weisgrau should resign, Vic Perlman too, and
the present board. In fact, to use a phrase they have been very fond of, I
believe it is their 'fiduciary responsibility' to do so." He urged all who
agree to let board members know their feelings.
In a letter to the board members of the Mid-Atlantic chapter,
Andrew Child resigned from that chapter's board. He had, he said, decided
that his continued service as a director of the Mid-Atlantic chapter was
"irreconcilable with the course being taken by...National leadership."
Child stated that he believes that the National board's actions
"are being taken without regard to the ASMP constitution or the desires
[of] its members...."
He also cited as a contributing factor ASMP president Reagan
Bradshaw's president's message in the September issue of the ASMP Bulletin
in which Bradshaw "suggested the referendum process be scrapped."
"After much thought," he wrote, "I have reached the conclusion that
the only realistic option to bring the National leadership into compliance
with ASMP's constitution would be through the courts...[but] I am unwilling
to participate in such destructive action. I care too deeply for ASMP to
engage in a lawsuit against its leadership."
Jim Pickerell has resigned his membership in ASMP, saying "the
executive director and the board [of ASMP] have decided that they have a
better understanding of what photographers need than the members
themselves. The board disregards all facts that do not support their
pre-determined conclusions...The ASMP constitution defines rules for
governing the Society, but the board is willing to ignore the constitution
rather than modify its course of action....At ASMP, the leaders are above
the law. I can no longer be a part of an organization that chooses to
operate in this manner."
by Barry Tannenbaum
In his column in the September issue of the ASMP Bulletin, ASMP president
Reagan Bradshaw floated the idea of changing the ASMP constitution to
prevent what he calls "the tyranny of the minority." The change would
prevent a group of members from bringing a referendum about board policy
decisions to the general membership.
Bradshaw, who said he wrote in anticipation of a lopsided victory
for the board's MPCA policies, now says he stands by his position, although
he "wouldn't write the same viewpoint now."
Bradshaw told us, "I'm not doing anything about the suggestion. I
stated it as a belief and a position, not as a motion at a board meeting.
It's something to be considered."
He told us he objects to the use of the referendum procedure to
"take a specific board decision and reverse it."
Under the headline, "Who should set policy," Bradshaw wrote, "The
provision in the constitution to reverse board policy was a misguided
effort to protect minority interests within the Society...It affords a
tyranny of the minority."
Response was immediate and sharp. "[The] referendum process is the
only way members can voice their collective opinion," Vince Streano said.
"Reagan claims members should voice their will through their elected board
members. This argument might stand up if the board hadn't just expelled two
board members for their opposing views. The referendum is the only vehicle
we have left for getting the board to take members' views seriously. In
fact, the board admitted they had seriously misjudged the opposition to
MPCA. Without the referendum, they would never have been able to come to
Douglas Peebles questioned the phrase "tyranny of the minority." He
said, "The fact is that you lost [the MPCA referendum vote] and it was
obviously not to a minority!
"I do not find the idea of removing the last check or balance on
the board's power, and allowing them to run free to do whatever they
wish...to be very appealing. Perhaps it would be better for the board to
take a long look at itself and ask if possibly, in this one case...it was
wrong. Perhaps...in the future they could listen to suggestions or even
Gary Gladstone asked, "Didn't [Bradshaw] once say that without the
MPCA referendum, the board would have had no way of knowing just how many
members were against MPCA?
"I don't like the use of 'tyranny' and 'minority.' It implies that
the minority, by its very nature and description, is somehow evil or less
important or otherwise negative in its intentions. It shows, in my mind, a
clear predisposition on National's part to systematically exclude...a
minority or other point of view because they are so focused on creating
momentum for their own ideas.
"The 'minority' he refers to was in this case clearly a majority
that they failed to recognize. And when it was dragged in front of them by
a vote, they choose to categorize it as tyrannical and then proceed to
At Possible HQ Move
by Barry Tannenbaum
In early September we heard that the National board had given the green
light to a search for a National headquarters location in Wilmington,
Delaware. ASMP president Reagan Bradshaw said, "We've been looking at that,
but I don't know that there's been any action taken." He also said that the
search was not limited to Wilmington.
ASMP executive director Dick Weisgrau told us that no definite
action had been taken. "I've written to [the board] and said [that] our
lease is up in three years, [and] we are in a position where...we could
consider the purchase of a property. Additionally, because we have to be
prepared for a possible tough negotiation over [our] current space...it's
incumbent upon us to begin to...explore the possibilities. I asked for
permission from the executive committee - and I don't know that I needed this
permission, but I didn't want to do it fruitlessly if they didn't want to
deal with the information - to investigate the purchase of a building and
other possible leasing arrangements."
The board okayed the investigation, Weisgrau said, but no
commitment had been made "other than they think it's important enough for
me to spend some time on it."
Why Delaware? "From the list we had...of likely places to relocate
when we left New York. Wilmington is equidistant on the Amtrak line between
New York and Washington, the two cities we visit most. My guess is, and
this is not confirmed by any statistics as yet, just a pure guess, that
property costs in the Princeton area will be much higher than in the
The move from New York City to Princeton had, of course, caused
controversy, with several ASMP members charging that it was at least in
part an accommodation to Weisgrau, who lives in the Philadelphia area. It
is the opinion of some ASMP members that a move to Wilmington might be a
further accommodation to him and, perhaps, to National's general counsel
and managing director, Vic Perlman, as well.
Weisgrau was angered by the suggestion that a move to Wilmington
would have anything to do with where he or Perlman lived. "I'm not going to
discuss where I live," he said. "It's irrelevant...I don't even know if
I'll be in ASMP [in three years]; my contract's up soon."
"Every time something happens, it's related to my personal
gain....Everything I do, something's said. I have enemies. I'm not going to
play [that] game. I don't make my judgments that way. I'm not going to get
to the point [that] where people live [is] part of the decision - making
He did say, however, that "[i]f we move one mile [farther] south of
the building we're in now, there is a distance benefit to me and Victor.
I'm 58 miles from the ASMP office - if we move into downtown Wilmington I
would be 48 miles, maybe."
Because of the "potentially politically charged" nature of this
issue, he said he was going to step out of it and "suggest to the board
that...they hire a site investigation firm...."
Three days after we spoke to Bradshaw and Weisgrau, a memo from
Weisgrau and Perlman was sent to the National board and chapter presidents
describing the headquarters site situation to date.
The memo detailed the background for the search and reported that
before they could investigate sites in greater detail and begin collecting
information, "we discovered that a newsletter reporter had learned of our
investigations and was calling members of the Executive Board and staff in
order to come up with a 'story,' apparently a controversial one."
The memo said that "[b]ecause we now anticipate that this issue
will be used by dissidents as a lever to create member dissatisfaction with
ASMP's management, we will probably recommend that the Board now consider
incurring the unnecessary expense of an outside consultant to study and
advise us on the questions of if, when and where to move our offices."
However, at its Orlando meeting, September 18-19, the board ruled
out a search firm and decided that Weisgrau and Perlman should continue
their investigation of possible sites for National headquarters.