Update: ATA Goes Outside To Manage Operations

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The American Teleservices Association tapped an outside management firm last week to oversee operations as it seeks to regroup after the departure of its CEO and the resignation of its previous board of directors last year.

Board president Gordon McKenna said the ATA has recovered about 10 percent of the money it said it is owed by Union Bank and is optimistic about retrieving the rest. The ATA previously reported that the total owed was $310,000 because the bank allowed former ATA chief executive J. Scott Thornton to use funds without proper authorization.

The ATA will shutter its Los Angeles office by the end of next month as it hands over day-to-day operations to Management Options Inc., Washington, which specializes in managing and growing nonprofit associations and businesses. The contract was awarded last week after a meeting of the ATA board in Washington earlier this month, when it also participated in the Federal Trade Commission's hearing on the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

"They are a young, aggressive firm, and we thought that was a good fit with our organization," McKenna said.

Officials from the Direct Marketing Association and the ATA discussed the possibility of the DMA absorbing the ATA last year, but the latter rejected the proposal. The ATA has charged MOI with increasing its membership base, and has set a goal of having 10,000 members within three years, or five times its current level of about 2,000 members. "They are incented to make sure the membership grows," McKenna said, although he declined to reveal specific terms of the contract.

As part of his role, McKenna will oversee development of the local chapters, and cultivate the ATA's international membership base. Plans call for four new local chapters in Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York and Washington.

MOI chairman/CEO Jim Clawson said his company is "very much in sync with the Board and with what they have in mind for their membership." Other MOI clients include the Wine Institute, Council for International Property Rights and the International Association for Continuing Education and Training. Jason Clawson, president of MOI and son of Jim Clawson, will serve as executive director of the association.

MOI will be responsible for helping the ATA reach its goal of raising $1.5 million by year's end, and will assume responsibility for ATA conventions, special events and its publications, including its quarterly newsletter, The Connection. McKenna said the ATA expects to have its fall convention in September in Las Vegas, though details have not yet been finalized. A spring legislative convention is planned for April.

However, at least one former ATA member, who did not renew his company's membership, said hiring an outside management firm seemed like a viable strategy to keep the association alive. "It's a positive move insofar as some people are trying to cause the association to survive and keep it going," said Rudy Oetting, senior partner at Oetting & Co. Inc., New York, and an ATA Board member for four years, starting in the late 1980s. However, he allowed, smaller associations usually employ outside management firms and the ATA is large enough to afford its own staff.

New Board members installed at the December meeting are:

* McKenna, Telequest Teleservices, president.

* Clifton Critchlow, Convergys Corp., vice president.

* Kent Stormberg, CAS, secretary.

* Michael Haaff, First USA Bank, treasurer.

* Mill Miklas, Sitel Corp., director of communications.

* Andrew Miller, Memberworks Inc., director of legislative efforts.

* Tim Searcy, Optima Direct, director of membership.

* John Hoholik, Bronner Slosberg Humphrey, director of conventions.

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