*TeleQuest Founder Oversees ATA, But No Longer Runs Firm

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TeleQuest founder Gordon McKenna remains president of the American Teleservices Association despite no longer controlling the company he founded.


McKenna, who became ATA president last year after the previous ATA president/CEO was accused of mismanaging the association's funds, has himself been accused of mismanaging his own business.


Bill Miklas, ATA board member and communications director, said the alleged problems at TeleQuest reported by the Fort Worth, TX, Star-Telegram earlier this month could not occur at the ATA. The association has created a system of oversight since former president/CEO J. Scott Thornton departed last year amid accusations that he mishandled thousands of dollars and left the ATA nearly bankrupt.


"We're aware of the story," Miklas said. "We empathize with Gordon's situation. In no way does this affect Gordon's position on the board at this time."


However, some formerly active members of the ATA said McKenna's continued presidency might hinder its ongoing recovery.


"The association is nothing if it isn't credible," said Jon Hamilton, a past ATA president who has not paid his association dues since McKenna became president. "How credible can the association be with those kinds of allegations floating around its chairman?"


McKenna declined to be interviewed for this story.


Mary Anne Falzone, a former ATA board member who resigned in the wake of the Thornton controversy, said McKenna has estranged many people who were willing to help the association rebuild. Falzone said that she asked to continue in her capacity as educational director and meeting organizer after her resignation but that McKenna rejected her offer.


"Like many others, he turned me away," Falzone said. "That is why he's alienated many people."


TeleQuest Inc., Arlington, TX, which changed its name to e-TeleQuest in November, once was a rising star in the industry, boasting 11 call centers and 3,000 employees nationwide two years ago. McKenna founded TeleQuest in 1986 with four employees. Last month, holding company Essar Group, Bombay, India, purchased the firm for $3 million. TeleQuest filed for bankruptcy on June 6. A federal bankruptcy judge denied McKenna's request to retain control of the firm, which now has only three call centers and 530 employees.


On Dec. 3, the Star-Telegram reported TeleQuest's downfall and McKenna's role in it. Calls seeking comment from TeleQuest chief financial officer Tim Kreatschman, a McKenna hire who remains at the company as acting CEO, were not returned.


Though some TeleQuest employees remain loyal to McKenna, the Star-Telegram reported that others have criticized him for spending the company's money on personal items while TeleQuest was having difficulty meeting its payroll.


McKenna's status as president of the ATA is unaffected by the situation at his former company, ATA spokesman Kevin Brosnahan said. McKenna was elected to the ATA's board of directors and took over as president in October 1999 when the association was reeling from allegations that mismanagement by Thornton had left it deep in debt.


ATA presidents serve one-year terms. McKenna won a second term from the board of directors at the last ATA convention in October in Orlando, FL.
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