New Letter sent to AMHA for June Meeting Discussion

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Aug 17, 2003
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Morson, Ontario, Canada
I am posting this here as an informative FYI post only, so have locked the thread. For anyone wishing to respond or open for comment/discussion, I ask you do so in a separate thread. Thank you.

American Miniature Horse Association

Mr. Michael Want, President,

Board of Directors

14910 Grassland Rd.,

Lodi, CA 95341

June 11, 2008.

To: AMHA President and Board of Directors:

As a group of concerned members of the AMHA, we again write to each of you asking for answers to many questions of serious concerns that our group has about several issues involving decisions made within the AMHA that have an impact on the membership.

As you all know, we sent each of you a letter that you received on or about March 31, 2008. We asked for the courtesy of a reply only that you as a director had received our letter. We were disappointed that less than one half of the officers and directors replied to our request. We have waited over two months and have not received any answers to our questions concerning the bylaw that was passed at the Annual Meeting changing the point of measurement of AMHA horses from the last hairs of the mane to the base of the wither. The only comments we have heard from a few directors was that the Board did not have answers to our questions, but they would be answered at the June 13-14, 2008 Board meeting.

Since it is impossible for us to attend the meeting in Texas we have chosen to write to all of you again expressing our concerns not only about the bylaw change in measurement of our horses, but of the violations of bylaws and rules we have discovered while researching the AMHA Rule Book and minutes of meetings. This will be a long letter due to the many issues we will raise in this letter that we would have brought up for discussion at the Board meeting, if we could be there personally. We hope all of you will give us the courtesy of at least reading our letter in its entirety, and opening it for comment at the meeting. We also ask that you will address/answer our concerns in the official minutes of the June 2008 Board meeting, as to inform all members of the work and decisions of our Board of Directors.

One thing we want to make sure the Board understands, is that the list of 234 members that signed our petition was in no way intended to be an official petition of any kind. We knew we did not have the time to compile a petition that would meet the requirements of the bylaws. However, it is apparent that some directors did not understand our point. The members that signed what was referred to as a petition were signing in support of asking the Board to repeal or at least table the implementation of the change of measurement to the base of the wither, until a committee could study the impact of what such a change might have on AMHA and the membership. The number of signatures has since increased, showing even more support for our cause.

Various issues of concern about decisions made by the Board have been discussed on the L'il Beginnings Miniature Horse Forum. Some AMHA members have agreed and disagreed with the Boards decisions, some discussions have become very heated. The President wrote a letter to the membership and had it posted on the forum. Tom O‘Connell, Kathy Porter, Frank Lupton and Judy Hoch have also posted on this forum. Good and bad issues have been raised from the discussions on the forum. Good in the fact that more members are reading the rule book and the minutes of the meetings, and will be more informed of the decisions that the Board makes and the procedures they use to make them in the future.

The bad issues are very disturbing. Members of our group have been contacted privately by many AMHA members, who have expressed their distrust of the Board, the rules and bylaws the Board has violated, their unhappiness with AMHA decisions, and reasons why some members no longer register their horses with AMHA. Due to the cheating within the measurement of horses that is ignored, they no longer exhibit at the shows. Many members feel that the Board has not enforced the bylaws by revoking registration papers on horses that have officially measured over 34 inches. Allowing these horses to remain in the registry destroys the integrity of the registration of the horses, and the whole purpose of AMHA. Several members have stated that they are afraid to post their opinions on the L'il Beginnings Forum out of fear of repercussions they could have from AMHA. Another issue of great concern was in copies of minutes from Board meetings we were given, in which very important decisions the Board had made, were left out of the minutes for the membership, that were included in the copy of minutes for the Board to approve. These were not minutes of closed sessions, and those decisions should have been made available to the membership in the published/approved copy of the minutes.

The following issues that we are asking for answers from the Board come from discussions we have had with a large group

of AMHA members.

1. Please answer the questions we asked in the addendum to our letter explaining how the Board plans to implement the base of the wither measurement of our horses. Study all the ramifications of this change and how it could destroy the integrity of the registry, and the Standard of Perfection that has been the goal for breeding and judging AMHA horses for the past thirty years.

2. Why did the Board violate the bylaws when allowing the show height protest rule GR0-50 to be voted on and passed by the members at the 2008 Annual Meeting, without publishing the amendment in it's final form as required by the bylaws 60 days in advance of the meeting? The Board overturned the members wishes in their approval of the rule passed at the 2007 Annual Meeting, when they rewrote the rule and changed the whole scope of the rule.

We have heard a lot of excuses from various directors, bylaw committee members, and members of the committee formed to rewrite and resubmit the rule, that the intent of this rule was not changed from the 2007 to the 2008 rule. That is just not true. After a lot of time studying both rules, it is very obvious there is an extremely different window of time that is allowed for a protest from the 2007 rule to the 2008 rule.

First of all, the notice given in the minutes of the October 2007, Board meeting, was only notice to the membership that the Board voted to table the implementation of the protest/measurement rule passed by the membership at the 2007 Annual Meeting, and form a committee to rewrite and resubmit the rule to the membership at the 2008 Annual Meeting. In no way does this notice cover the required 60 day notice of the amendment written in its final form and published in official correspondence to the membership.

The wife of an AMHA officer posted on the L'il beginnings forum that the concern the Board had with the protest rule was not about law suits but rather about the legality of actions that might be taken in order to enforce this rule as it was originally written. The legality, as in state and federal laws. The original rule allowed a protest up to two hours after the class. She said that AMHA has no authority to detain horses or people. If they tried, which they wouldn’t, this could be construed as kidnapping. That is why the board delayed the rule until it could be rewritten so it was legal (according to civil law). She went on to say that the rule was rewritten without changing the intent of the original author.

Our studies reveal that is just not true. The only similarity in the two rules was that a horse could be protested after it had shown in a class. The new rule gives a completely different time window to file a protest, not a matter of hours, but of days in some shows. For that reason it should not have been voted on at the Annual Meeting without the required notice publishing the rewritten rule in its final form to members in advance of the meeting.

An example of the original rule would allow a horse shown at 8AM on the first day of the World Show to be protested only for two hours after the conclusion of the class, no matter how long the horse was on the show grounds. The new rule would allow a horse that was shown at 8AM on the first morning of the World Show, that would be remaining on the show grounds, to be protested up to nine days later. That certainly changes the whole intent of the original rule.

As far as the Board’s concern about the legality of requiring a person or horse to remain on the show grounds for the two hour time a protest is allowed after the conclusion of their class or classes doesn’t make sense. Especially when a protest of all show rules except height protests can be made up to one hour after the last class of the show. This is a protest rule that has been in effect for many years. Why would the Board be concerned about legal issues or kidnapping to hold a horse or person for two hours after their last class, and not considered it a legal issue or kidnapping to allow all other protest of show rules to be made up to one hour after the last class of the show? Surely the Board can see the error in passing the rewritten rule, and why so many members are concerned over the action when they had no advance notice of what was to be voted on at the Annual Meeting. Raising the protest fee from $50 to $100 was no doubt the Board’s decision to discourage protests of measurement of horses. Another decision many members consider discouraging, because the height of a horse over its age limit and over 34 inches should be the most important rule AMHA enforces. Any horse over 34 inches tall does not meet the requirements to be registered as an American Miniature Horse in AMHA as per the AMHA standard and bylaws.

3. Another issue of concern is why the Board overturned the wishes of the membership and violated a bylaw that states that no officer may serve more than three consecutive years in the same office. The members at the Annual Meeting voted only for the current Treasurer to stay in office until his successor could be elected. In less than 24 hours, at the Board meeting, the directors voted to ignore the bylaws and elect the Treasurer for a fourth consecutive year. He accepted the position knowing he was violating the bylaws. It is violations such as this that cause many members to distrust the officers and directors.

4. When we sent a solid, well thought out proposed amendment to officers asking that the Board to use the power the bylaws gives them to make an amendment allowing the members to have a say in the decisions of the association by voting by mail or internet ballot, and send it to the 2009 Annual Meeting for a membership vote, we met with restrictions from some directors telling us that we had to follow all the required steps in the flow chart. Our amendment gave suggestions to help defray the cost of the ballot, printing, postage, a method for counting and handling the ballots and for the implementation of the amendment if it passed. In fact, we were given restrictions that the Board did not require for other amendments that had been voted on and passed.

The words of President Want, in his message in the June/July issue of the Miniature Horse World, is a contradiction to what we have found to be the facts. Want said, “The AMHA is owned by the membership, and that being said, be sure you know how much of an impact you have on the decisions of the association. Please take the time to read through the article on our Rules and Bylaws that is in this article. It sheds important light on how change takes place within our association and how you can have a say in the matter.”

It is not possible for any member to have a say in the decisions of the association unless they can afford the time and money to attend the Annual Meeting every year.

Fewer and fewer members attend the meetings each year. This year only 93 members were present and voting one day, and 85 the next. This small number included 23 directors. With the economy as bad as it is, increase in grain and hay to feed our horses, the high cost of fuel increasing all travel costs, hotels, meals, and expense for the care of animals at home, health issues for some families, many members just can not travel to meetings to vote. The Board has not helped the situation by raising the fee to attend the Annual Meeting and vote from $10 per person to between $25 to $100. Many members have expressed their opinions that when they do attend the meetings and vote to pass a rule or bylaw that is important to them, the Board will overturn the members vote as they have been doing several times in a very short period. As was done when the Board voted to ignore the members wishes, and the rules they approved restricting the use of embryo transfer. The Board voted to allow the active study and it was two years before a rule was passed allowing embryo transfer and the procedures to follow in registering foals that result from the embryo transfers. And we wonder why AMHA’s membership is decreasing each year and the reason for the loss of about $100,000 in revenue from registrations in the past year.

5. Many members have expressed their distrust of the directors because of the recent termination of yet another computer software program that the directors said would take care of all the associations needs. The system would bring in revenue for AMHA, and would cut expenses as fewer employees would be needed in the office. We read in the minutes that AMHA attorney, Frank Cain, was impressed with the software program, and a suitable contract was met. The program would be up and running by January 15, 2007.

Sixteen months after the operational deadline we finally hear that the contract has been terminated by the Board. We read in the year end audit that $119,998 had been spent in 2007, for computer software. We also begin to hear from directors that the contract was a bad one because AMHA would have to pay $140,000 each year for service on the program, and would never own it. The Board knew this before they signed the contract. They also knew that they planned to charge each member $20 per year for the use of the program after it was up and running, they just did not tell the membership. As was said earlier this was provided to our group with minutes of a Board meeting in 2006, when the Board voted to purchase the program. This was left out of the minutes that went to the membership. Distrust is very understandable.

We are asking the Board to give a complete and honest report to the membership in the minutes of the June meeting answering questions for the members about the computer program. Remember the membership lost $350,000 plus interest on the loan about five years ago when the Board voted to purchase another software program that we never got either. After spending over a half a million dollars for two computer programs, AMHA still has nothing more than the antique DOS system we had before we started purchasing software. Please answer as to how much the total amount of money was lost on the horsestudbook software program, including attorney fees, and salaries paid to office employees. Please answer in detail why the program did not work for AMHA. Give us details of what the Board plans to do now in search for another software program that will work for AMHA. Will new professional people be hired to advise on the purchase of a new program, and will new professional people be hired in the office to insure that the proper data and records are available to make the system work? The membership cannot afford the expense of another failure.

It is hard for those of us that are also members of AMHR to understand why the same computer software program is working well for AMHR and would not work for AMHA. Especially when AMHR has more horses registered, more members, more classes, and more horses entered at their shows. Two height divisions for Miniature Horses, two divisions for Shetlands and The American Show Pony. They are using the system successfully, and several show managers are also using it.

President Want, if you meant what you said in your message in the Horse World, that the members own AMHA and we have an impact on the direction of the Association, please come forward with answers to our questions. Don’t hide behind any pending legal talk. Members have a right to know the truth.

6. President Want, why did the Board vote to change show rule WS-025 and ignore the wishes of the membership and the procedure you refer to in the article on Rules and Bylaws in the Horse World, about how change takes place within our association? When the Board over turned yet another rule the membership approved several years ago without going through the proper procedures you have recently pointed out, surely you can understand the distrust many members are feeling.

Several years ago the membership voted on the World Show Judging System that they wanted to have at the show. There was a lot of discussion and consideration before the membership approved a five judge system, of discarding the high and low scores and averaging the three remaining scores. This is the judging system the membership wanted. We learned from the minutes of the June 2007, meeting that on just the recommendation of the LOC and Show Rules committee the Board voted unanimously to disregard the membership’s decision and change the judging system to a completely different three judge rotating system, and make the new system effective for the 2008 World Show. Another time the membership’s wishes were overturned and the procedure they approved for rule changes ignored.

We understand that the Board has the power to make a change when it is an emergency situation or upon finding exceptional circumstances that concern the health or well-being of the horse or the exhibitor, if it materially benefits AMHA’s programs or financial stability, or involves other compelling circumstances. This change made so quickly by the Board was no emergency and did not involve any compelling circumstances. If there was an emergency situation, why was it not mentioned or explained in the minutes of the meeting when this rule change was passed? This rule was passed fifteen months before it would be used, there was time for the Board to make a proposal to send the change to the Annual Meeting for a vote and if passed, the membership could have instructed the Board to vote to implement the new rule for the 2008 World Show. There was time to follow the proper procedure. Please explain to the members in the minutes of the June Board meeting the reason the Board did not follow the members approved procedure for rule changes. What was the emergency and why? If it had to do with the long day the judges put in, and wanting to give them a rest by rotating classes, that could not be an emergency, because the judges know what hours they will work long before they sign a contract and agree to judge. In the past three or four years the judges have spent less time judging due to a smaller number of horses entered in the World show and changes to shorten the champion classes. If it was to reduce the cost of judging expense and eliminate an increase to the exhibitor’s entry fees, that is not an emergency. Expenses could have been cut in other areas to cover the cost of two less judges. What will be the cost for writing a new show program for the new three and four judging system?

If there ever has been an emergency to be considered at anytime in the history of AMHA, it is the impact the change in measurement to the base of the wither will have on the association, the registry and the membership. We could argue forever if this rule went through the proper channel and never reach an agreement. What we do know is that it took less than 50 members voting to pass this rule, but AMHA could suffer the loss of ten times that number of members if this rule is implemented.

The Board has the power to declare an emergency and repeal this bylaw and to save the association from what could be a real embarrassment to implement, and to help prevent the loss of more members and revenue and prevent the loss of our international market. Take time to study the ramifications of throwing away a Standard of Perfection of the AMHA Miniature Horse that measures 34 inches and under at the last hairs of the mane that our Association was formed to promote and protect 30 years ago.

We thank you all for reading this far and trying to understand the great concern many members have for the future of AMHA. Our group wants to help in any way possible to promote and protect the AMHA and the miniature horses we have invested our money in and registered with the association. However, the Board has made it very hard for so many of us to stay in the industry by approving more and more fee increases for the members. We all know the price of our horses are at an all time low. Members are having a much harder time selling our horses, and showing them.

In the past it was a good selling feature when we could sell horses to families who might want to show at a few AMHA shows, but had limited funds. The Board has made that impossible for some families when they voted to require that any person that shows at the Championship and World shows is forced to pay the expense of becoming an AMHA member, or to do any business of registration of their horses in AMHA. Very possibly these increased fees are part of the reason members are leaving AMHA.

Our letter is intended to be helpful by informing the Board of our deep concerns, and those of many members that have contacted us since the Annual Meeting, about rules that have been ignored, and the lack of interest on the part of the Board to enforce all the rules and bylaws. We are hoping that the directors will consider the current state of decreasing support of the membership for the association, and make changes to enforce and follow all rules, and answer question completely and honestly when the membership asks.

One of the greatest concerns that has been voiced by many members is the lack of response when they are told to ask their directors about problems. They take time to write their directors and very often are just ignored by no response. There have also been some unnecessary rude remarks made by some directors, and refusal to answer important questions by others. Hopefully the directors will decide to take the time to serve the members in the regions they wanted to represent, or if they don’t have the time or patience, they will allow someone that does to replace them.

We thank you all for your time spent to listen to our concerns, and we will be very appreciative of answers to our questions. We will be waiting for a timely reply after the Board meeting.


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