Response to Allegations from "Pirate Website"
To: MCRGO Members
From: David Felbeck, MCRGO President and Chairman of the Board
Subj.: Response to allegations
Date: Dec. 5, 2002
I must apologize for not responding sooner to the newest ill-timed pirate website, as I have been busy working to implement much of what they suggest we 'should' be doing, and more. I actually appreciate some of their points, because they tend to validate other information we have received from you, the membership, and are acting on, but I do not appreciate the intent behind this site.
The allegations in this website are intended not to be supportive, but to disrupt and paralyze the Coalition. We have just had a remarkable few days in Lansing, working to achieve legislative changes essential to maintaining and advancing our firearms rights, and none of the people involved in creating this site were present. For people who allege to be concerned about firearms rights, not to be involved in Lansing during the most critical two-week window of the next four years shows they are far more interested in playing internal politics, than in the real politics of advancing your rights. In addition, some of the people listed on the site (Rosemary DiPonio, for example) had no knowledge, and had given no permission, to be so listed. Others have advised us that the site was misrepresented to them. This is the second attempt by the people creating this site to interfere at a critical time, which leads one to wonder just whose side they are on.
Let's review what is stated one item at a time: First, the press release. It is customary when issuing a press release to provide a name and telephone number so that interested reporters can obtain additional information, and to provide credibility to the release. This particular item contains no names, no phone numbers, not even an organizational name. In fact, I am unable to find a single telephone number for any person listed in this entire piece. Perhaps they didn't want those listed without their permission or understanding to be questioned. Please contrast this with the openness of your official MCRGO website and Newsletter, which list full contact information for all members of the Board of Directors and all staff.
1. "Secret" board meetings? The current board has followed practices set by previous boards. The purpose of the periodic closed meetings, as far as we know, has always been efficiency, not secrecy. These practices were established while at least one of the people now being critical were involved. We are well aware, however, that all decisions not required by law to be confidential must be made known to the membership, and have been doing so. We are also developing a proposal to the membership that would result in board meetings taking place in various regions of the state, to make them more accessible.
2. Rush actions? This is a clever statement, but those who wrote it know well that the process is not to present a question first to the membership for approval. That can involve a long 'back and forth' to get it right. The accepted practice is to make a decision based on input from the membership, and discussion by the board, and then submit it to the membership for approval. This is how any organization whose membership cannot readily assemble in one small room operates, and how this organization has functioned, including when those now critical were participating.
3. Budget? Wonderful suggestion, and one we have been working toward, and it will be made available to all the membership. We only wish some of those now critical of our not having one had prepared one themselves, so we were not starting from scratch. We do not fault any prior involved person who is not critical, because they know the work involved, but those of you who now find fault for what you did not do yourself, shame on you.
4. Bylaw changes? Already done. The current board has previously changed the Bylaws so that now any Bylaw change must be approved by a vote of the membership. This provision was not required by the Bylaws that were written and approved by those now being critical, in 1997. We have made revision of the Bylaws much more responsive to the membership than ever before, and we thank our critics for the opportunity to so state.
5. Members run for office? The previous Bylaws, written in part and approved by our critics, contained a cumbersome and unworkable delegate procedure which was never followed. The current Bylaws provide for what is certainly fairer procedure. It is interesting that those now critical participated in the formulation of that procedure. Perhaps we should review it.
6. Other candidates? Not a bad idea, but when the former Executive Director was appointed to that position, there was no prior announcement, there was no nation-wide search, and there was no opportunity for the membership as a whole to review his qualifications. Why is a different set of rules now being suggested by those who speak highly of that same Executive Director, than were applied to his own appointment? Virtually any organization has the right to make staff appointments, especially from within, and Mr. Perricone had been a contract employee for a number of months. The board did discuss the feasibility of a general search, but, as we assume was done for the prior director, it was decided he had proven himself capable, and has been offered the position. As we build an effective staff structure, we expect that formal searches will become the norm, but promotion from within should always be an option.
7. Partisan slant? We most certainly should not! The MCRGO PAC endorsed or found acceptable in the primary election 8 Democrats and 39 Republicans. In the general election the MCRGO PAC endorsed or found acceptable 19 Democrats and 101 Republicans. We devoutly wish that more Democrats can be found who share our views, but the current reality is that Democrats who share pro-firearms rights views must constantly stand up to their party leadership and face the possibility of becoming pariahs. We are grateful for their strength of character. We remain strictly non-partisan, for this is our strength. We remain strictly non-partisan, for this is our strength. This non-partisan approach was demonstrated very recently in the CPL class for legislators that was conceived, funded, and executed by Chuck Perricone. There is now a bi-partisan waiting list for the next class.
The "information" presented by our critics would lead one to believe that MCRGO was at one time run on a daily basis, as is now insisted upon, "with the consent and consultation of the membership." This is simply not true, including when those who created it were actually closely involved. I know of no organization, volunteer or otherwise, that is run in such a manner. All have elected leaders who set policy, and staff that executes it. We are the only organization that I know of that has a members-only e-mail list and a members-only message board. These venues are allowed to run virtually unchecked, with only minimal oversight when two or three members resort to name-calling. The complaint aired in this press release refers to anonymous posters, not necessarily members, who discussed Coalition affairs on open message boards that were requested to be limited to discussion of firearms rights issues. To rectify this situation, earlier this year the Board established the members-only procedures so that actual members could properly air their concerns about the Coalition and they have done so, with no censorship. The allegation of censorship is therefore deliberately misleading.
Perricone as Executive Director of MCRGO? I'm pleased to have this opportunity to say more. As this board, and likely many members, had grown deeply concerned that there was no budget, no formal accounting procedures, poor communication with volunteers performing Coalition business, and so forth, the Board of Directors hired Chuck Perricone to conduct a detailed study of our operations. He was charged with providing us a report of (1) a summary of operational problems, and (2) recommended actions to fix the identified problems. This he has done, in a most thorough and professional manner, to the unanimous satisfaction of the Board of Directors. He was brought in for that purpose, and when he demonstrated a remarkable grasp of what we are and what we could be, we asked him to help implement it as well, as our Executive Director. Please note that these events were separated by over four months, and during that time the Board had an excellent opportunity to interact with Chuck on an almost daily basis. With the exception of the Chairman (of course), your Board of Directors is made up of a remarkably diverse and talented group of people of exceptional intelligence and perception. To a member, they believe that Chuck has what it takes, in both dedication to a cause that he deeply believes in and in his remarkable organizational skills, to carry out the reorganization that he recommended. At no time was there ever a plan or a commitment to appoint him (or not) as Executive Director, but the realization gradually developed that here is the person who can do the job.
I elect to defend Chuck Perricone from the distortions given in the post because he would not do it himself. Chuck served in the Michigan House of Representatives for the full three terms permitted under term limits, and in his final term was elected Speaker of the House. In a highly unusual move, he was appointed Chair of Taxation in only his first term. During his second, the Democrats controlled the House and his colleagues elected him Assistant Leader. During his term as Speaker, Chuck personally guided through the bill that became PA 381, the concealed carry reform bill. I was in the Speaker's office several times during the drafting stage and worked closely with the drafting committee; not everyone who claims to have been a critical part of this legislation was actually present during the final negotiations, no matter what they say.
Chuck also negotiated a successful bill that bans lawsuits against firearms manufacturers and distributors. The House of Representatives had been trying to pass pro-firearms legislation, beginning with the first Cropsey bill, since 1993, without success. Chuck Perricone delivered. He did not seek employment with either MUCC or the NRA. He was not 'waiting in the parking lot' the day we accepted the former ED's resignation. Chuck interrupted his family vacation to drive down and present his vision of what he could do for us via an in-depth review. The fact is, the former ED departed in the morning. Chuck didn't arrive until mid-afternoon. I remember because he arrived late due to traffic. For us to obtain his services at the rate of $50,000 per year was a bargain, as any self-respecting lobbyist can tell you (most won't even work with associations).
When Chuck Perricone attended his first MCRGO meeting at Chief Okemos Sportsman's Club early in 2000, I personally handed him an MCRGO membership application and accepted on the spot his application and his check for a one-year membership. It is sad that those who wrote the public diatribe pay so little attention to facts. Further, when Chuck realized this year that his membership had run out, he renewed. Then, when the PAC was low, he sent in $150. A few weeks later he sent in $500 for a life membership with MCRGO. One other thing: his contributions, expenses and membership dollars to MCRGO actually exceeded what we paid him for his time. He's never billed us for expenses.
I will be happy to let MCRGO's record speak for itself after Chuck Perricone has been Executive Director for six months. Chuck has held this job for about ten days so far and he has already brought in more advertising dollars for our newsletter, On Target, than was brought in during all of 2001. He has shepherded through key improvements in PA 381 and was of critical assistance in our obtaining a remarkable 88-11 vote for its passage in the House the very same day it came out of committee. That seldom happens. While serving, he raised more money than any Speaker before him and he continues to have unlimited access to Legislators on both sides of the aisle. For those wishing to believe that he is short on contacts, I challenge you to join him in Lansing for a day. He was the Speaker of the House during a very difficult and partisan period, but the respect is evident and you will see it for yourself in short order. We are fortunate indeed to have such a dedicated person working for our cause. Let's face it, guns are not an easy or popular issue to deal with.
The strategy now in play to stop the preemption assault through legislative means was conceived by Chuck Perricone; I was present when he first suggested how we approach this important change. He has been both creative and effective. Although he is of course a Republican, he worked with a union that broke from the fold and endorsed Dick Posthumus. He persuaded this union to include an MCRGO membership application in its newsletter, at no cost to us. A majority of this union's 23,000 members are Democrats.
Rebuttal. It is pointless to rebut a rebuttal unless one enjoys constant bickering, and I don' t. I am satisfied to let stand the statement that the Board made, for every word of it is true. For anyone with a mindset such as the anti-self-protection people have, facts are of no importance unless they can be twisted and manipulated.
Action. I have publicly and repeatedly asked every member who would like to make positive suggestions to write to me. During the past five months, I have answered every positive message sent to me personally and I shall continue to do so whenever possible. Very, very few of those people involved in the creation of the pirate website have ever brought their suggestions to me. Rather, they have preferred to make public statements that either lack substance, or are deliberately misleading, and this causes one to wonder what their objectives are. I remain available. My e-mail address is email@example.com. Thank you for your time, patience, and contributions to our cause.