DMCNY Board Seeks Unified Front After Flawed Vote

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Though a vote-counting error marred a vote on a potential merger with the Direct Marketing Association, Direct Marketing Club of New York board members said yesterday that they are closer to agreement about the club's immediate future.

Board members indicated a merger was still possible but that the issue would not be decided immediately, perhaps not for months. The board has envisioned a membership meeting, perhaps in June, at which the club as a whole could discuss issues including a DMA merger and possible changes to the bylaws.

State law requires a two-thirds vote by the general membership of the club before a merger can take place. Club president Vito Fortuna said he expected the issue would be discussed at the general meeting in June but doubted the club would be ready for a vote then.

Some board members discovered only yesterday morning that a March 26 vote on a motion to "pursue the option" of becoming a DMA chapter had not ended in a 6-6 tie but rather 7-6 in favor. Nevertheless, board members said they left the meeting closer together on the contentious issue than they had been before.

"We started out very far apart," Fortuna said. "It's a very emotional issue for some people. At some point, you have to put emotions aside and move forward."

Not everyone left the meeting happy. Past president JoAnn Dunn, who was on the task force that studied the merger issue and gave a presentation on the disadvantages of becoming a DMA chapter, said she was unhappy with the outcome of the vote and that she believed the tie would have put an end to the controversy.

Dunn said she was concerned the ongoing, often emotional debate was distracting club leadership from its main job of running and growing the club.

"I do not feel like the leadership of the organization is acting in the interests of the club," Dunn said. "I think there is something of a self-serving motivation."

However, board members who oppose a merger said they came away satisfied that the issue at least would receive extensive review before a decision was made. Board member Tom Brady said he believed that even if the vote had ended in a tie, the practical result would have been the same.

The board had shelved a motion on whether the club should become a DMA chapter in favor of a motion requiring only that the board further investigate the issue, an effort Brady believed would have gone on anyway.

"It's not something that is going to happen hastily," Brady said of the merger. "It could be a good thing. But it's not going to happen quick."

Brady said he didn't think there was anything suspicious about the way the vote was tallied.

In an e-mail to the board and its panel of advisers, executive director Stuart Boysen acknowledged that he had failed to count board member Jane Weber's vote in favor of the motion.

"I'm sorry. I read back the names of each person's vote, and I heard no response at that time," Boysen wrote. "So it looks like the board has the green light to continue its due diligence and fact finding."

Also in the e-mail, Boysen said that Fortuna was "not in a rush" for a membership vote on the merger. The club president wanted to focus on issuing a new member acquisition mailing and getting current members to pay renewal dues, Boysen wrote.

Yesterday, Weber confirmed that Boysen had called and informed her of the error after the meeting. However, Weber indicated that despite the unconventional conclusion to the meeting, the board went away agreeing to hold off on a decision but to conduct further review.

"There are definitely things we need to follow up," Weber said. "All we knew was that we weren't ready to decide."

The club board is scheduled to meet for a luncheon April 9 at the Yale Club in New York, Fortuna said. The merger issue will not be discussed formally at that meeting, he said.


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