AVMA governance reform team resigns

HOD to consider structural changes internally
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The eight-member AVMA committee responsible for implementing governance reforms resigned the same day the House of Delegates approved structural changes to the AVMA’s board and voted down a series of reforms to the HOD.

“We feel we have fulfilled our charge … to the best of our ability with the volunteer leadership in existence today,” the Governance Engagement Team explained in an email to the AVMA Executive Board, now the AVMA Board of Directors, sent July 25 at the conclusion of the HOD regular annual session in Denver.

“The House of Delegates has made it clear,” the letter states, “that the GET cannot be impactful in effecting the changes envisioned by the reports of the AVMA 20/20 Vision Commission and the Task Force on Governance and Membership Participation.”

Dr. Helfat
AVMA Board of Directors member Dr. Mark P. Helfat encourages the House of Delegates to vote in favor of changes to its governance structure July 25 at the HOD regular annual session in Denver. (Photo by R. Scott Nolen)

“Until fundamental issues—such as the question of whether AVMA wishes to function as an individual membership organization or a federation of constituent groups—are resolved and thus guide implementation approaches, progress is unlikely. Absent a justifiable need to further expend AVMA member resources on a work group whose counsel is now irrelevant, the Governance Engagement Team hereby resigns.”

Incoming House Advisory Com­mittee Chair Michael Topper announced at the July 29 AVMA board meeting the HOD will likely consider potential governance changes internally. The board assigned two of its members to work with Dr. Topper.

Formation of the GET was suggested by the AVMA Task Force on Governance and Member Participation. The task force had reviewed the AVMA’s governance system over a two-year period, using the 20/20 Vision Commission report and other key management information resources as guiding documents to transform the AVMA into a leaner, more democratic association better able to facilitate member input, participation, and recruitment.

The task force was sunset after issuing its report to the board in 2013. The report contained proposals for establishing a board of directors as the sole body with management responsibility and policy authority and creating a veterinary issues forum composed of organizations currently in the HOD and other veterinary stakeholders that would identify strategic issues for AVMA action.

The GET was created to pick up where the task force left off by communicating and explaining the AVMA governance reforms to all audiences, soliciting and reconciling feedback, and submitting a final governance proposal to the board.

Proposed AVMA Bylaws amendments, which the AVMA board recommended delegates approve, included making each alternate delegate seat a voting delegate position; that for each state VMA or other organization represented in the HOD, one delegate would be designated by that organization and the other delegate elected by AVMA members in that state or organization; and that delegates could serve no more than two consecutive four-year teams.

Additionally, the board had recommended amending the bylaws to rename the AVMA Executive Board the Board of Directors and reduce the time of board member service from six to four years.

During the HOD regular annual session this July, the HOD voted in favor of the bylaws changes concerning the Executive Board but defeated all the proposed reforms to the HOD itself.

In an interview with JAVMA News GET Chair Karen Bradley said the team has worked hard over the past year to fulfill its charge, and members believed the GET had reached the end of its life expectancy. “The outcome wasn’t what we hoped,” said Dr. Bradley, also the Vermont delegate in the HOD. “Our biggest hope was we would bring some bylaws changes to the front that would help representation in the House of Delegates be more in line with what members want and that members would have more direct input into actually voting and electing.”

“It’s pretty clear that’s not ready to happen now,” she admitted. “It just didn’t feel like there was a clear way for us to continue. Perhaps healthy change can come through the House working on the reforms themselves.”

Dr. Thomas F. Meyer, chair of the AVMA Board of Directors at the time, commended the team for meeting its charge. “The GET is a hardworking and dedicated group of colleagues who listened and suggested changes to AVMA governance. They probably felt some frustration their counsel is now irrelevant,” he told JAVMA News.

Remaining assembled for discussions following the HOD regular annual session, delegates made it clear that any future deliberations on governance changes would need to involve the leadership of the HOD and the Board of Directors. “At this time, no definitive structure or composition of individuals to carry this forward has been determined,” Dr. Meyer said.

“The HOD needs to decide on some fundamental issues,” he continued, “such as how they wish to govern themselves, term limits, one or two delegates, voting responsibilities, and how they will represent the individual membership of the AVMA and the federation of constituent groups.”