Friday, October 14, 2011

The AGA is off and running!

I am delighted to share that the Alaska Goat Association is fully functioning :)

As of this morning, there are over 35 members. I am pretty sure that number is larger than any other functioning goat club in the state, by far. People are still coming on board, even if they don't quite "get it" as to its "organization".

I got a call about this just the other day, and so help clarify matters, here is a "no particular order" explanation of the Association.

There are no officers.

No formal voting, or balloting.

No "regularly scheduled meetings" at a physical location.

There is no board.

No one person is in charge of anything.

Now that seems pretty simple to me, but some people are having difficulty wrapping their minds around what this concept really means in practice. In most clubs and organizations, officer positions tend to garner people with time, energy, and a desire for power to some degree.

In reality, the positions saddle one person with specific duties for the term of their office, and many times they burn out or are unable to complete their terms. Just take a good look at what has happened in the other goat clubs in the state, and you will see that the same people tend to hold the same offices, year after year. Some of those offices are abused, and occasionally those offices are essentially abandoned with lost documents or accounting. In this Association, any one person can go forward with whatever project gets the collective, majority vote. No running the idea through committees, no waiting two or three months (or longer) to get things on an agenda, discussed, voted, and approved. Just bring your idea to the group Facebook page, pitch it, and see what people have to say. You can start a poll, ask questions through the Yahoo! group, or simply call people-whatever works. If you have an idea you think is of value to the goat community-it's yours to head up and make happen. Recruit whoever you think you need, and run with it. Now, that's pretty simple, isn't it?

There is no "application", so there is no "application process". You pay your membership fee, and you are a member. Period. You are not required to furnish anything other than some means to contact you. What you chose to share is up to you-as little or as much as fits your comfort level. No vetting, no discrimination, none of that. You pay, you are in and you have a voice-just like everyone else.

Any issue raised and discussed is a "meeting". Members meet every day on Facebook, through email, and the Yahoo! group. If members don't want to participate to that degree, that's just fine with the rest of us.When members have discussions on the Facebook group page, or converse via email or the Yahoo group, they are voting when they make their opinions known. As the Association grows, it will probably need to get a little more "formal" for these things, by using polls or other means to determine the majority opinion.

Since we are spread all over the state (and we have members in other states, too), conducting "formal meetings" where everyone can participate is impractical at best. Thus, the reliance on the tools of modern communications: Email, Facebook, the Yahoo! group, conference calls, and hopefully a new website soon. A bank was chosen that has offices in many locations, and PayPal is the vehicle for most transactions. It is imperative that people understand that this Association is open and accountable to ALL its members. This means, publishing banking activity, memberships, and any activity the members propose to undertake. Everyone has the opportunity to see what is happening with their Association at any time. No guessing what's in the bank account, no wondering when meetings might occur, no bickering behind the scenes masquerading as personality conflicts.

The call that prompted this entry, raised legitimate questions about the Association's relationship with the state. In truth, we chose the simplest one available-cited here as written:

Article 1: The name of the corporation is: Alaska Goat Association
Article 2: The duration is perpetual
Article 3: The purpose is "to promote goats and goat products in Alaska"
Article 4: Distribution of assets upon liquidation: Upon dissolution, the assets get distributed equally among members.

The above is satisfactory for the State of Alaska. They may ask for further information (i.e., formal ByLaws) but this can be easily addressed, if the need arises. The articles can be changed as well, with a simple letter informing the state of the changes.

Yes, indeed...the whole idea is simple, user friendly, open and transparent. I kind of like it, don't you?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Alaska Goat Association

The Alaska Goat Association was created this week.

I suppose you could say it was due in part to the beyond shabby treatment that the Alaska Mini Goat Cache has given former members, the distrust and anguish it has fomented upon the goat community, and selective use of their offices and by-laws to alienate just about everyone. It seems evident that people here want a club, but they don't want anything to do with the MGC shenanigans, or Heather Fair and Rayna Fritcher as Treasurer and President, or both. But still people want to participate, to join together and enjoy and promote their interest in all things relating to goats.

The solution was brainstormed on Facebook, and arose immediately from discussions on several pages. In two days, the corporation was founded, a bank account established, the EIN (required by the IRS) procured, and a "structure" created. Today, the process will be furthered by application for formal non profit status.

Above all, this will be a transparent and open organization.

There are no officers.

Nope, no board, no formal positions of president, vice president, secretary or treasurer. No position for webmaster, newsletter, fundraising or any of that stuff. Instead, this is majority rule. No balloting, but everyone has a voice. Some people will see this as anarchy, chaos and/or mob rule. In practise, it is not. Civil discussion and consensus are amazingly easy to accomplish, if you are willing to let it happen. Every activity with the bank account is publicized, as is every member as they join.

There is already a slate of events started, with people stepping up to organize these individually. They include shows and clinics and seminars. Since this is a state wide effort, there will be events on the Kenai (an area sadly overlooked) and hopefully the Interior as well as it gains momentum. It is open to anyone who chooses to join-no discrimination at Alaska Goat Association! No "application process", no expulsions, none of that crap. You want to join, you pay your dues, you are in. How much you get out of it, is up to YOU. Memberships run the calendar year, but anyone joining this fall, is good for the next year too.

Here's how you can see what's going on, and join in making the Association what YOU want it to be:

On Facebook, find Alaska Goat Talk, and join. Ask there to be invited to Alaska Goat Association-there is already a discussion thread if you can find it. We won't add you to the group page unless you want to be included! Once you are there, the information about joining is available. Pay your dues, and add your name and number to the list.....and that's it! No showing up at irregularly scheduled meetings, no fumbling around trying to find information....just join, and you're in!

You can also join the Yahoo! Group "AlaskaGoatAssociation", established as an alternate to Facebook as some people are not comfortable with social media.

And, you can contact myself, or others, about how to join without having an online presence.

Electronic participation is being worked out, but already includes the Facebook page, the Yahoo! group, and PayPal.

I'd say that's a start, wouldn't you?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Victory is mine

On Saturday, I appeared in court for my case against the Alaska Mini Goat Cache. Upon arrival, we all sat through a another case, and then were sworn in and began. I was pretty nervous as I had never done that before, and bobbled my opening remarks to start. However, I was able to plainly state the sequence of events to the judge:

I joined and was expelled the same day.
The following day I got my money back through PayPal, and got an email from the President telling me I'd been expelled for cause.
I attended the membership meeting in January, resubmitted my fees and application.
They were accepted by the President (and yes, the Treasurer was present)
The Treasurer never attended any other meetings after that.
In June, the small claims case against the Treasurer was held, the results were:
That Heather Fair was the treasurer
That the election process they had started prior was valid
That the election results were valid with Heather Fair being Treasurer again
That the actions taken by the board in the expulsions were valid.

So, since I was expelled (and was not a member, and could not be a member, and could not reapply for two years) I asked for my money back. A total of five times, via email. I probably was not as polite as I could have been, but truthfully, I was disgusted with the entire club. I addressed all the emails to the President, Rayna Fritcher. She eventually came back with a "write a letter and we'll consider it" response. By that time, the club had held onto my money for nearly eight months, and done nothing to rectify the situation. Of note: The issue of returning money to expelled people are not addressed in their bylaws at all. Their language only applies to people already members. So, when Rayna quoted "members/membership applicants" she was not being accurate. And I'll just point out this, which is aggravating: Their own bylaws say that when you pay your dues, you are a member. Period. They do not say "after processing" which is what Heather Fair used as part of her defence.

They have had held no meetings since January. If they had held a meeting, I would have asked to be on the agenda, and then politely asked for my money back. I knew the club should work within the framework of their own bylaws (and they have, to some degree) and I felt that attending a meeting was the best course for resolution. Instead, their board voted back in April to not accept the minutes of the January meeting. I only found this tidbit in reading through the response to my suit, as it happens.

The judge did not want to get into the two factions of the club, since it did not apply to my case. This did not prevent Heather Fair and Rayna Fritcher from making inflammatory statements about the activities of the other faction, the trouble surrounding the club bank account, and my participation with the other faction. I very wisely did not take the bait because it was not germane to the suit.

The judge found my small claims suit valid, and the club is to return my funds.

I was not awarded expenses because I did not write that letter that Rayna demanded. I find this highly ironic because Heather Fair stated repeatedly that the corporation was unable to function due to not having a checking account. The reason they gave for not giving it back was not having a checking account. Their bylaws state that refunds and expenses must be done by check. A bald faced lie I did not correct. I know that the club has an account with $25 in it, at MVFCU. They also have the $290 in cash collected at the January meeting, as well as the $400 in the PayPal account. They could, at any time, deposit the $290 and transfer a portion of the PayPal account, if they chose to do so. Then it would be a simple matter to get counter checks and take care of business.

But no, instead they call into question the honesty of the bank (the bank itself, no less!), and have done nothing.

I presume this fits into their agenda, since if they "don't have a checking account" they can continue to claim that money has been "stolen". Which, by the way, they have done online already.

The other side of that is, of course, that the club has knowingly retained funds for nearly ten months.

That would be all the money collected at the January meeting, from over a dozen people who had submitted applications. Now, just who is "perpetrating a theft" here, eh?