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Why Every Member Needs to Vote For/Against Consolidation

David J. Jendrzejczyk, CP, FAAOP
O&P National Office Chair


The other day I was talking with an old friend and colleague about the many changes happening in the O&P community -  the mergers, the impact of reduced reimbursements, the legislative and regulatory issues were watching, and, of course, the consolidation of ABC, AOPA, NCOPE, and the Academy.

Having been around at the time of the first attempt to consolidate in 1992, he remembered with great detail the ins-and-outs of that time period and how the issue suddenly died. "It was a great idea, but it wasnt understood by the membership," he said. "For some folks it was too much of a surprise when they showed up at the AOPA National Assembly and found this 30- or 40-page booklet awaiting them with bylaws, legal opinions, committee descriptions and an organizational chart. Consequently, it was shouted down by a vocal minority at that meeting."

He was referring to what was known as ACPORS - American College of Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Rehabilitation Sciences. The monograph covered all the details of forming a new organization, however in retrospect, it failed to adequately address the need for consolidation and the benefit to the individual. The most disappointing part of ACPORS is that it was never decided by the memberships.

Consolidation is an issue that has been suggested by several organizational consultants, has been discussed in great length by each Board of Directors, researched by the Steering Committee, and needs to be considered by the membership body. It is too important an action to be aborted by the voices of a few instead of being an informed decision by those who it impacts most.

The Steering Committee agrees, and has set aside $125,000 toward presenting as much information as possible to prepare members for the vote. By now, you have already seen some of the biweekly faxes (or letters sent to those without fax machines) addressing key issues. Several articles have (or will) appear in the Academician, AOPA In Advance, and the O&P Almanac covering pros and cons of consolidation. There have been "lively" (if that is the most appropriate word) discussions on the OandP listserve, and it continues to be a topic widely discussed by leadership at every meeting.

BUT . . . and this is an important point, the viewpoint of the Leadership is not necessarily that of the Membership. Leaders (by that, I mean all who volunteer to serve on committees, councils, task forces, or boards), by their very nature are different from the masses. They are usually no more than 2% of the membership that come forward to do that which needs to be done. Their desire to commit their time and energy on behalf of the membership automatically makes them stand out from the whole. As members, we trust our leaders to make decisions on our behalf for the greater good of the whole. And for most issues, that is a good arrangement. BUT, on issues of great import it is the duty of members to demand not just a voice, but an individual vote.

This July, the members of AOPA and the Academy will be sent ballots regarding consolidation. Likewise, the ABC Board and NCOPE Commission will also be asked to vote on consolidation. Prior to the ballot you will receive a Plan of Consolidation as required by corporate law. The plan will describe the essentials of the transaction and will detail how the consolidation will be implemented. It will include the name of the new corporation, how the first Board of Directors and officers will be selected, how the finances of all the entities will be tied together (including information on dues/fees), membership consolidation, the independence of ABC and NCOPE, and describe the structure and operation of the new, consolidated association. Dont worry about the size of this plan the essential issues and sticky points will all be addressed by the one-page faxes prior to your receiving the document.

By Delaware corporation law, two-thirds of the eligible voting membership must vote in favor of consolidation for it to pass. Considering that historically less than half of our members vote in annual elections or bylaw changes, getting out the vote will be a significant but achievable challenge.

As a member of the Academy or AOPA, you have an obligation to cast your vote for or against consolidation. Im counting on you to meet that obligation.

 POSSIBLE PULL QUOTE:

"Consolidation is too important an action to be aborted by the voices of a few instead of being an informed decision by those who it impacts most."

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Copyright 1998-1999 American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association.  Last modified: April 16, 1999