North American Power Sweeping Association
NAPSA President's Resignation, Part 2:
After over twenty years of attending industry expos this one was, hands-down, the most tumultuous to date. The reason: My article on how the recent resignation of NAPSA President, Kevin Kroeger, was handled by the organization's Executive Committee. If you haven't already read our story on what occurred, you will want to do so before reading further.
Quite frankly, the story was the only reason for my going. With the larger National Pavement Expo coming up in February, I seldom go to what was this year called Pavement LIVE and held, for the first time, in San Diego.
The show had few sweeping contractors in attendance. Although there may well have been more who just walked the show floor, I counted only five 'new' contractor companies represented at Thursday night's Sweepers' Roundtable, in addition to the 11 'regulars' in attendance. The majority of the latter group were also NAPSA officers and/or Board Members, so the trip did provide the opportunity to speak to them directly that I had hoped for when going.
My reception from NAPSA's Executive Committee members in attendance – given how critical WorldSweeper's analysis was of their handling of former President Kevin Kroeger's recent resignation – was as warm as a February day at the North Pole.
However, talking to them in person was my reason for coming to the Expo. While there, I tried my best to speak to all of the Executive Committee members, both individually and as a group. The casualties: one NAPSA officer refused to shake hands after our particularly spirited exchange. Another conveyed to me that, as far as he was concerned, he and I were "no longer friends." Although unfortunate, perhaps both of those situations can be rectified at some time in the future.
Several NAPSA officers, including President, Jim Larko, and Vice President, Ken Lindsey, told me our initial article was not factual. Both were invited to either submit a general statement detailing inaccuracies, which I promised to link prominently; or, alternatively, they were invited to rebut the story by providing corrections on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. That offer still stands. (We did uncover one error: Gregg Blair told me we had erroneously listed his position of NAPSA treasurer – instead of the secretary position held by Mark Carter – as now being held by a 1800SWEEPER Founding Member. This error was corrected within hours of Blair's notification to us.)
None of the NAPSA Executive Committee members I spoke with – i.e., those who apparently made the decision not to disclose to NAPSA members Kroeger's resignation – said that they understood why I or anyone else might take exception to that course of action. None admitted to recognizing even now, after the fact, that even an appearance of unfairness occurred. (If you are on the Executive Committee and think I have misstated your position, please contact me and I will be glad to add in your comments.)
With the intent of trying to sort all of this out in whatever way might be most conducive to closure that would be in the best interests of the industry, I also offered to meet with all NAPSA Board Members present at Pavement LIVE. The suggestion was made that such a meeting could also include other interested parties: Mike Lucht of 1800SWEEPER; representatives from NAPSA Gold Members, Schwarze Industries and TYMCO; Silver Member, Nite-Hawk; and any NAPSA Founding Members that might be at the show. This overture was rejected by the NAPSA Board.
Generally speaking, the responses I got to the conversations I instigated could be fairly characterized as: 'we didn't do anything wrong;' 'we're all volunteers with only a little spare time trying to do the best we can;' and, 'no one would know or care about this if you hadn't written about it.' After initiating numerous conversations – most both heated and heartfelt – here's what WorldSweeper believes needs to be said further about this situation.
First off, let's keep in mind that these men and women are, indeed, volunteering their time to steer the course of NAPSA. Moreover, several are pillars of the American Power Sweeping Industry. They have dedicated many long years – in several cases decades – to both NAPSA and to trying to improve the industry in general. As Editor of American Sweeper magazine, in 1995 I chose Gabriel Vitale's C & L Sweeper Service as my first ever recipient of our "Award of Excellence in Power Sweeping." Mark Carter's company, Bill's Sweeping, was chosen to receive the award in 1999. For their history of service to the power sweeping industry, all NAPSA Board Members should be commended.
However, our editorial opinion remains that for NAPSA's Executive Committee members not to tell NAPSA members why the officers were changed in November of 2011, instead of at the regular time in early 2013, represents a serious lack of transparency.
In Kevin Kroeger's official Letter of Resignation he says, in part, that he resigned "...directly due to the exclusive involvement of NAPSA Board Members with this (1800SWEEPER) organization prior to the launch to the general Sweeping Community." And, further on: "My personal belief system does not allow me to support this recent decision, and requires my resignation."
NAPSA's Executive Committee – made up entirely of the individuals Kroeger was concerned about except for Superior Elastomers' Gregg Blair – are who made the collective decision about what to send out as an initial press release two weeks later. None of those referenced by implication in Kroeger's letter either recused themselves from this task or, apparently, decided that given the circumstances the entire NAPSA Board should take part in the decision.
After returning to my office, I conducted telephone conversations with four Board Members not on the Executive Committee between December 5-8. None recalled being shown a draft version of the initial press release announcing the new slate of officers prior to it being sent out. Kimberly Fantaci, NAPSA's Executive Director, signed the letter. So, we sent an email request to Ms. Fantaci on December 8th, asking who okayed the contents of the initial press release prior to it being sent. The next day she provided the following response:
"Press releases distributed by NAPSA are routinely reviewed by the committee or group responsible for the project or action involved. We do not, by practice, have the Board of Directors review all releases or articles sent on behalf of the Association. In the case of the release dated November 10, 2011 announcing a new slate of officers, this was reviewed by our executive leadership. We do not know if others on the Board saw or discussed the release prior to distribution so we can't confirm whether or not others reviewed."
In addition, when the NAPSA Board voted to accept 1800SWEEPER as a Bronze Member, our understanding is that none of the NAPSA Board Members who were involved with 1800SWEEPER recused themselves from the vote. However, our understanding is that they did offer to do so prior to the vote.
All members of the NAPSA Board I spoke with in San Diego told me singularly and as a group that they thought that the 'real' reason Kroeger resigned was that 'he couldn't be a member of 1800SWEEPER.'
For his part, Kroeger readily admits that he was disappointed not to be invited into 1800SWEEPER – but that he also understood he couldn't be a 1800SWEEPER member because the organization's business model allows just one business per area code. (Kroeger's area code was purchased by a competitor, Columbus-based Contract Sweepers. No officers of that company are NAPSA Board members.) However, Kroeger also insists in no uncertain terms that he quit as President for the reasons given in his resignation letter; i.e., his concern about the fact that six of his Board Members had been, behind the scenes, also secretly Founding Members of 1800SWEEPER.
As part of his decisionmaking in this regard, Kroeger cited to WorldSweeper another mitigating factor: During more than one 2011 NAPSA Board meeting, he says, NAPSA Executive Director, Kimberly Fantaci, introduced the concept that all NAPSA Board Members should develop a Conflict of Interest Policy, which would include the signing a document in that regard. However, for whatever reason(s), the Board as a group did not choose to follow through and implement that protocol. (That the 'no conflict document topic' was brought up in multiple 2011 meetings has been confirmed independently by two NAPSA Board Members I have spoken to since Pavement LIVE.)
As those who have followed this story from the beginning are aware, WorldSweeper previously requested the NAPSA Board's Minutes for all of 2011. The main reason for doing so was to confirm what we had been told; namely, that implementing a Conflict of Interest Policy had, indeed, been discussed during more than one 2011 Board meeting.
The NAPSA organization has expressed concern that a precedent might be set by providing its minutes to a non-member. So, unless at least two of the NAPSA meeting minutes do not contain references to implementing a no conflict document, we withdraw our request to review NAPSA's 2011 minutes. We are confident that NAPSA members will let us know if the topic is not discussed in the minutes. It is now easy for them to do so: As a result of this WorldSweeper investigation, NAPSA's minutes have been posted online in the membership area of NAPSA, available for perusal by all members.
Further, in an email on December 13th, Fantaci confirmed the following to WorldSweeper: "NAPSA has a Conflict of Interest Policy, and all Board members are required to sign that they have received, understand and agree to comply." However, an important aspect of any such document are the guidelines that define what constitutes a possible conflict of interest. During conversations with them, several current NAPSA officers who are also 1800SWEEPER Founding Members indicated they did not feel any type of conflict of interest currently exists. We encourage the NAPSA Board to clarify this issue, with those currently filling both positions recused from both the discussion and the outcome.
During our continuing investigation since WorldSweeper.com first broke this story, we have uncovered additional information which, to date, has not been disclosed. We have been told that one or more members of NAPSA's Board and/or Executive Committee who are Founding Members of 1800SWEEPER are also on 1800SWEEPER's Board of Directors. Although on December 8th we requested confirmation one way or the other from Mike Lucht, President of 1800SWEEPER, to date none has been forthcoming. However, to our knowledge, there is certainly no requirement for him to disclose the composition of his Board of Directors' roster.
If some of these individuals are on the Board of Directors of both organizations, it would appear to provide a further level of complication. However, the importance of any of this information should ultimately be left to the NAPSA membership to decide.
This story was initially seen as potentially important for one central reason: The NAPSA organization changed its officers at a non-typical time without any explanation to its general members. From there, the background investigation created somewhat of a 'snowball' effect.
Kevin Kroeger resigned because of what he saw as actions by certain fellow Board Members that he, personally, could not live with. Those he referenced held all but one slot on the Executive Committee. Inexplicably, instead of the Executive Committee disclosing Kroeger's resignation or the reasons for it in the press release it sent out to NAPSA rank-and-file members two weeks later, members were, instead, just notified that there was a new slate of NAPSA officers.
Then, when WorldSweeper requested Kroeger's resignation letter, we received a response signed by Kimberly Fantaci that said, in part, that (Kroeger had resigned for) "personal reasons. ...While your request has only been circulated among the executive leadership, they are confident that the full Board would agree that 'respecting' Mr. Kroeger's decision would include providing him his privacy."
The implication appears to be that the same Executive Committee members were, again, the only ones making the decision not to release Kroeger's letter. Further, they chose not to disclose that Kroeger's "personal reasons" involved ethical concerns about some of his fellow NAPSA Board Members – including all but one of the people making the decision not to disclose the letter.
WorldSweeper immediately contacted Kroeger and received his written okay to have his resignation letter given to us; however, the NAPSA leadership again chose not to do so. On November 21st, NAPSA's response was "Regarding Mr. Kroeger's resignation letter, we would suggest that you speak directly to him." Because these words did not directly authorize Kroeger to provide the letter to WorldSweeper, at the Pavement LIVE Sweepers' Roundtable I asked permission of Jim Larko, current NAPSA President and the person moderating, for permission for Kroeger to provide the letter for WorldSweeper to publish. At long last, permission was given and Kroeger felt comfortable with providing the letter.
As Kroeger's letter confirms, although it might be said that he resigned as NAPSA's President for "personal reasons," the actuality is the root reason was far from just personal: Kroeger resigned due to his ethical concerns surrounding the actions of a number of his fellow NAPSA Board Members. Our editorial opinion remains that as soon as Kroeger's resignation letter was received the NAPSA Board Members who were also Founding Members of 1800SWEEPER should have recused themselves from all further decisionmaking on this topic.
I went to San Diego so I could look people in the eye when they answered my questions. My resulting assessment is that there doesn't appear to be anything in this situation that is sinister or, probably, even premeditated. Time is limited; things happen; opportunities arise; decisions need to be made.
Also, the fact is that if all but one person on NAPSA's Executive Committee were to summarily quit or be fired, there would be an enormous vacuum within the Association's leadership. It's not overstating to consider that NAPSA itself might not survive such an occurrence. However, the question that NAPSA members need to ask themselves would seem to be: "In the long run, does a potential conflict of interest exist if NAPSA Board Members are also members of, or on the Board of Directors of, 1800SWEEPER?"
Let's say that one such individual learns about a great product they can negotiate a group discount on. Both organizations will be stronger with more discounted buying power; who gets the lead?
Or, what happens when a contract opportunity calls for sweeping outside someone's service area? Is a call made to one of the NAPSA members in each specific geographic area – or to the owner of the entire area code at 1800SWEEPER?
Being on the Board of NAPSA is entirely voluntary; being a part of 1800SWEEPER costs $400+ per month. Could this potentially make a decisionmaking difference if someone involved with both organizations is steering NAPSA's course?
Finally, if the 1800SWEEPER organization is determined to be in conflict with the goals of NAPSA, is it appropriate to have them as a Bronze Partner?
Fortunately, what happens next is not up to WorldSweeper to decide. Rather, it's up to the NAPSA membership as a whole. However, we encourage the current Board and Executive Committee to provide NAPSA members with full disclosure on this situation. Providing all NAPSA members with links to the WorldSweeper.com articles on the topic would be a good way to do so.
We also suggest that – if they don't already exist – clearcut guidelines be established to steer the understanding of NAPSA Board Members as to what does and does not constitute a conflict of interest. This should include a definitive decision about what type of 1800SWEEPER connection, if any, constitutes a potential conflict situation.
Only with all the facts available to NAPSA's general membership can the members make the correct decisions, ones that will assure the strength and longevity of the Association. Hopefully, this entire episode will have the result of spurring more involvement by all NAPSA members. The way to make NAPSA better is for members to provide input; attend meetings; push for the addition of things you want to see happen; and, the changing of anything you don't like with the current system.
That old axiom is true: "What you get out of something is directly related to what you put into it." Your NAPSA membership is not an exception to that rule. Ultimately, WorldSweeper hopes that this event will encourage more involvement and activity by NAPSA members throughout the U.S. Get involved with what's going on in your organization! That's the only way to ensure that NAPSA endures and prospers throughout the 21st century and beyond.
Ranger Kidwell-Ross, the author of this story, is a graduate economist and the editor of WorldSweeper.com. He was the founder and editor of American Sweeper magazine, has been writing about the power sweeping industry since 1988 and is the world's most prolific author of information on power sweeping. You may reach him online via WorldSweeper's contact form, or by calling toll free to (866) 635-2205.
Kimberly Fantaci, NAPSA's Executive Director, may be reached via email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Nancy Terry is NAPSA's Association Executive. Her email is: email@example.com. You may also reach either at the NAPSA office by calling 888-757-0130.
If you have questions or comments about this interview, please, let us know and we can add them in as an addendum to this article.
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