By Cheryl Dowden, January 31, 2020
The cover-up of the Marketing Sub-committee Findings Report
This is the story of a document – a simple analysis of HSVPOA marketing efforts. The document below was the document written by the Marketing Subcommittee (MSC) and submitted to the Comprehensive Master Plan Advisory Committee (CMPAC), which refused to accept it as written. (To enlarge this document, click on the “pop-out” icon located at the top right of the document. To finish reading the rest of this article after viewing the “pop-out” hit your escape key or close the page.)
“Summary of Findings” of the MSC as submitted to the CMPAC
Here’s the story
The MSC is a sub-committee of the HSVPOA CMPAC. The MSC began their work in May 2019 and their “Summary of Findings” report was ready for release and presentation at the CMPAC November 8, 2019, meeting. But they were not allowed to present.
On November 15, 2019, the MSC met with CMPAC Chair, Nikki Choyce to discuss why the presentation of their report had been disallowed. The reason, as you will see below, was attempted censorship.
Finally, on December 13th at the CMPAC meeting, Pam Avila (Chair of the MSC) submitted the original “Summary of Findings” report (previously held up) to the CMPAC.)
Key Elements of that November 15th meeting:
Sitting at the MSC meeting table were the following individuals: Chairperson Pam Avila; Secretary Nancy Ornelas; Committee Member Chuck Miller; and Committee Member Ray Lehman. Committee Vice-chair Dan Aylward attended via telephone conference. Board liaison was Director Buddy Dixon and Staff liaison was Chief Member Experience Officer (CMEO), Jamie Caperton. Excused absences were committee members Diane Bielanski and Chuck Alvord.
Also in attendance was newly appointed CMPAC Chair, Nikki Choyce. There were two separate issues discussed by CMPAC Chair Choyce.
- First, was the requirement of the MSC to submit their requests, reports, etc. through the CMPAC Chairperson.
- The second was whether the charter required a written report on the “Summary of Findings“.
MSC Charter requirements re: document submission/communication
Choyce acknowledged all the hard work of the MSC. She explained that she has only been chair of the CMPAC for three days and wanted to set the tone for what was going to happen.
Choyce suggested the MSC had some communication challenges and they would work on this issue.
Choyce stressed that she expected the MSC to submit all documents and communications through her. The MSC Charter specifically says under Limitations in Sections A and F that :
A. “The [Marketing] sub-committee shall work through the CMPAC to request information from staff or other committees...”
F. “Sub-committee members are not authorized to submit minutes or unofficial reports to anyone other than the CMPAC Chairperson.“
Was a written report necessary?
As previously stated, the second issue Choyce discussed was that she felt there was no reason to compile the written report titled, “Summary of Findings of the MSC“. According to Choyce, this was not a charter requirement.
Specifically, the charter says this:
B. “Be knowledgeable about past HSV marketing programs and their outcomes.“
C. “Be familiar with current HSV marketing programs.”
The MSC produced this summary because they felt this was the best means to reflect what they had learned about past and current marketing. Working diligently for three months, the MSC laid out their historical findings in this document. The MSC felt a written report was the best way to summarize the information.
Even though the present sub-committee members had knowledge of these findings, committee members often come and go. Future sub-committee members would also need to understand this background so past mistakes were not repeated. The only way to inform future sub-committee members of the findings of the sub-committee was to document the marketing history in a written report.
Choyce says MSC shouldn’t focus on the past
Choyce did not want the MSC to focus on past mistakes and said, “In terms of setting expectations about moving forward, I think that everything that has happened in the past… let’s call that done… focus forward…the tagline of the CMP is ‘Moving Forward Together.‘”
Choyce stated that the door should be closed on anything in the past “that was NOT favorably looked upon.“
Choyce further elaborated that the MSC should “focus on the issues and not people.”
Choyce warned MSC members that if they would not focus forward that, “Unfortunately, there is only one consequence that is available to me and that consequence is that if the direction of this committee doesn’t go…[forward], my only recourse is to dissolve this committee and I don’t want to go in that direction.”
Choyce shared, “I wish I had other options. But that is the only option I have open to me.”
Choyce stated that moving forward by working in a professional manner and with honesty and integrity is how she wished the committee to proceed in the future.
Chuck Miller said, “I think this committee maybe ruffled a few feathers because we wanted information. Without that information, we could not make suggestions based upon what we didn’t know.”
Miller elaborated, “My personal thinking is, we need to give you what we see. We need to tell you as we see it. We need to do it in that way. And that might not be what you want to hear. We don’t want to be somebody that is just doing what the Board or the CMP thinks we ought to do. We are here to give you ideas of what we think, as marketing people, should be done.”
Choyce stated, “But as marketing people, you know there are many ways that we can tell the story. And they are all versions of a truth. A truth. Okay.”
Choyce explained that ‘feather ruffling must be done in a respectful way and that is what we want to happen here.”
Miller said that he believed the report was respectful, but it was not accepted that way. [Staff had received informational copies of the report. Obviously they were not pleased with the document.]
Choyce explained that the intention of the report may have been respectful, but if it wasn’t perceived by the recipients as respectful that this was not harmonious and “then something needs to be worked on there.”
Choyce elaborated that because of the open meetings (public is allowed to view meetings) that, “We have a chain of command in terms of how information is going to be handled. And that is through me directly. And as long as it stays within that boundary, I think that we can control it.”
Miller: “I can say, having sat in the committee, that at no time did we ever submit anything that was to be detrimental. It was our recommendations, based upon what we found out or didn’t find out.”
Miller: “If that’s taken away from us, I don’t think we have a committee.”
Lehman: “I agree. I think the reverse direction is also appropriate, as well. Respect coming back to the Marketing Sub-committee… One of the places where we were not respected is in our effort to understand the marketing efforts and all that behind Ghidotti. We were told that Ghidotti is off the table and we are not to talk about Ghidotti. I felt that that is highly inappropriate since they are our marketing firm. Just wanted to find out what they are doing and how they are doing it and how they have been doing it. I think it is an important part of it, we were told.“
Ornelas said, “ …It wouldn’t have mattered if it was Ghidotti or Company ABC, or you know, ACME Brick. It didn’t matter. The perception was we were picking on…The reason why we were so intent on getting the information about the agency was so that when we moved forward with a new agency, we were not repeating some of the same mistakes.“
Vice-chair, Dan Aylward stated, “Our charter mandates us to provide to the CMPAC that document that goes through the history of marketing. What I am hearing today, I am not sure whether we are supposed to follow our charter or not.”
Aylward said, “If we are supposed to provide a summary of the history of the POA marketing, then we would provide that document to the CMPAC.”
Avila asked the sub-committee members at the November meeting if any further changes or adjustments needed to be made on the “Summary of the Findings” before they were submitted to CMPAC Chair Choyce.
Aylward stated, “I think its a fair representation of what has happened historically. I have some reservations about some of the comments of what is the current status because I am not sure that we know enough to be able to take a position on some of them. But, I think it is a fair representation of where we are.“
Avila stated she had previously sent the report to CMEO Jamie Caperton but the CMEO did not offer any input. Caperton said, “I am not going to add my comments.”
Miller asked if the negative comments about the POA’s marketing efforts were, “going to be acceptable for you to receive them, as such?”
Choyce said, “No, I want it focusing on the recommendations and the issues. Nothing related to people.”
Miller responded, “It has no people.”
Choyce said “I will be happy to take another look at it, but the feedback that I am getting is that there were inferences related to people, staff, etc.” Choyce again asked for the MSC to focus on “forward-thinking.“
Aylward said, “But our charter said that we were supposed to access and compile the history of marketing in the POA.“
Choyce disagreed saying there was nothing in the charter stating they had to submit a written report on historical findings; only that the committee be “knowledgeable so they can move forward.”
Avila said they chose to create a “Summary of Findings” because the charter did not specify. Avila explained, “This document and the findings, unless someone else in the Village has spent time going through that whole exercise that we spent all those months going through, this information isn’t available anywhere else in the Village, in the marketing department, on the Board, wherever. So this should serve as a benchmark for moving forward.”
Miller moved to submit the “Summary of Findings” to the CMPAC Chair Choyce.
Choyce stated this submission of the document would be only for review purposes.
Aylward asked, “Are we submitting it for review or are we submitting it as our document?”
Choyce said, “The protocol is that it would go for review and only when it has passed the review, then I open it up to the CMPAC to take a look.”
Choyce said, “I will be happy to take a look at it and we can see what the next, for review, but then I will let you know as a committee what [sic] we go from there.”
Avila, “Is that fair?”
Ornelas stated, “So just to cut to the chase then… We want to submit it. You’re going to look at it. You’re going to make some recommendations on how to maybe make it a little bit less, if its feelings. And then you are going to communicate that back to Pam as to what maybe needs to change. But we as a committee really feel like the information is valuable and it needs to be seen.”
Choyce explained, “And when its in its proper form and finalized, then I am happy to go up [she was referring to submitting this document to the CMPAC Committee and then the Board of Directors]. Until then, let’s cut and consider it in the review status.”
Aylward disagreed, “If the committee feels its in its proper form, so what you are saying is we have to self-censor what we are saying so that it doesn’t necessarily represent what we believe.“
Choyce said, “No, I am not saying you have to self-censor. I am saying that it has to be…I am not going to say that you can’t do what you want, which is where [sic] I think that you are saying. But you have to have an honest point of view. But that honest point of view needs to be unbiased and it needs to be factual in terms of the issue, not the people. That is what I am going to be looking for.”
Aylward replied, “I think it is unbiased. I feel it is pretty unbiased.”
MSC Chair Avila said, there is nothing they can do about the past and “It is behind us. We need to move forward because it is not going to change. So our view has to be a forward view at this point. And we probably learned a couple of good lessons from that experience that will affect the way we move forward, I think. But it is important that we stop thinking about that; we stop talking about it, because we can’t do a damn thing about it. That is the reality.”
What is the status of the report?
Choyce “reviewed the “Summary of Findings” and made very significant changes to the document. At their December workshop, the Choyce version was presented to the MSC as the “acceptable” version of the Summary. The MSC unanimously voted to reject the Choyce version as not reflective of their body of work nor their marketing expertise and experience. At the December CMPAC meeting, Avila submitted the MSC-approved “Summary of Findings” to the Chair. During the January 10, 2020 CMPAC Meeting MSC Chair Avila inquired of Choyce about the status of the “Summary of Findings“.
This question was not answered. Instead, Choyce talked about the status of another report.
At the end of CMPAC Meeting, a guest commenter asked the same question:
The guest said, “I don’t think we heard an answer to the question Pam asked on the status of the Marketing committee’s “Summary and Finding Report“.
Choyce: “We discussed that at the last meeting. Where we left it at that point, there was some resistance and I said resubmit it to me. I have not seen the resubmission. So who’s ball court? Is that in my court or is that in your court?”
In actuality, the CMPAC had received the MSC Findings but refused to let them be formally submitted at their November 8 meeting. A few days after that meeting Choyce advised the MSC Chair that the MSC Findings were not acceptable and she had re-drafted them. The MSC unanimously rejected Choyce’s version as not reflecting the MSC’s work or a true picture of past marketing. At the December 13 CMPAC meeting, the MSC Chair managed to formally submit the MSC Findings to the CMPAC with no comments or discussion. Although the CMPAC had the findings since early November, Choyce claimed at the January 15 Board meeting that the CMPAC had not received them.
Board Director also asks about Marketing Report
Additionally, this issue was also discussed by Director Podawiltz at the January 15, 2020 Board Meeting:
“I would like to ask about the Marketing Sub-committee report. I was under the impression that this committee would also be reporting their findings and their work effort and their work product to us, the Board. But yet, we’ve never seen any of that.”
Choyce responded, “As a sub-committee of the CMPAC, if you would like information, then you may go to the chair of that committee and I will help you get whatever information you want from one of our sub-committees.”
The MSC worked diligently on this report for about three months previous to submitting it to the CMPAC Chair. During the November MSC meeting, there was talk of censoring and changing the report. Choyce did not want the MSC’s findings to be submitted to the Board as they originally were written but instead wanted changes made to the report. There seems to be a swirl of confusion surrounding the status of the “Summary of Findings“.
Thank you for reading. Please comment and let us know what you think about this situation. Be sure to bookmark this site so you don’t miss any updates.
By Cheryl Dowden, January 31, 2020