Past presidents challenge SITE’s proposed bylaw changes

The incentive travel group's Past Presidents Council has penned a letter to members outlining their concerns over the revisions.

Opposition to the new bylaws: SITE will be engaging with members before deciding.
Opposition to the new bylaws: SITE will be engaging with members before deciding. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/IRStone

The leadership of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) - the international board of directors, including Annette Gregg, SITE's CEO of 10 months - has redrawn the organisation’s bylines, upsetting some members in the process.

Opposition to the new bylaws was aired in 23 August letter to all SITE members penned by Rajeev Kohli, CIS, CITP, on behalf of SITE’s Past Presidents Council. The letter was sent during the four-week period, which ends 17 September, that SITE members can vote on the proposed bylaws.

In part, the letter reads, “We are deeply alarmed at the lack of transparency in discussions and processes on these changes and find that whilst a legally correct process has been followed, a morally correct one has not. Many of us have led bylaw changes over the years and none have seen a situation like this. What is being presented is rushed, incomplete and goes against SITE’s core values.

“As past presidents of SITE, we have witnessed and nurtured our community's growth, founded on principles of transparency, fairness and equity, and democratic processes. We believe the standards are not met in the proposed changes. We are alarmed at their potential impact on our future. They go against the core DNA of what SITE is.

“Without any personal prejudice, we, the below past presidents (24 in total), strongly oppose all three motions in the form presented and ask that our members critically assess these proposals themselves and consider the long-term implications for our beloved community. We are voting NO to all three proposals as presented and if asked by anyone, would suggest the same."

Kohli went on to say: "if you find any merit in our opinion, we ask that you please share this message with your fellow members and chapters so that everyone can make an informed decision. Everyone must vote. That is their duty. But vote fully informed. Not voting is also not appropriate.”

Three Concerns

Kohli outlined three specific bylaw changes the former presidents oppose:

The first issue is the changing of SITE’s open-election process for its international board of directors to a closed-slate process, where the board recommends a vetted slate of directors. In his letter, Kohli points out that the “current system allows anyone of any level or size of organization to contest equally, from any country, with any experience level, of any background. It is open to all, with no barriers.” He further commented that moving to a slated system “strongly risks the creation of exclusive elitist cliques, and compromises the equity and inclusiveness we cherish. It allows for personal biases and discretion to play a greater role in selection… These changes go against the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusivity.”

A SITE source said that the purpose of this proposed change is to ensure that the board reflects all industry segments, including buyers, hoteliers, destination management companies, convention and visitor bureaus, and more.

Another controversial change is for SITE’s board to extend the term of an officer beyond what is stipulated in the bylaws. According to the SITE insider, this measure is to ensure the board is fully staffed with experienced directors in the event a board member has to leave their term early, which has occurred several times in the past years. But the past presidents object, saying, “If the board at any point requires any special one-time exemption for a board member to stay an extra year, that is easily attainable by a special motion to the members. It should not be a long-term bylaw change. The way this change has been drafted is poor, but can be acceptable in the future with changes, which are not being made.”

The third point of contention is the switching of the oversight for SITE’s budget from the board's vice president of finance to internal staff (the organisation is managed by SmithBucklin). The past presidents fear this move will threaten SITE’s financial transparency.

SITE’s response

SITE addressed the concerns pointed out in Kohli's letter with the following statement: “A number of past presidents disagree with the proposed bylaw changes and so — to openly address both their pros and cons, and give all parties an opportunity to express their viewpoint — we are holding two informational workshops next week [28 and 29 August] for our membership.

“To date, approximately 5% of our members have cast their votes but, following the workshops, a member will be able to cancel their original vote and vote again. This gives fair opportunity to all members to cast an informed vote, while respecting the international board of director’s decision to continue the ballot and the time frames required to do so.

“We invited representatives from this group of past presidents to participate in the workshop and they declined, opting to launch a grassroots campaign, urging our members to vote against the bylaw changes.

“These issues are relevant only to SITE members, and we feel it’s inappropriate to debate an association’s internal matters publicly. For this reason we will not be providing any further public comment on the matter.

“We look forward to engaging with our members during these forthcoming workshops, hearing both pros and cons, and finally making a well-informed choice.”

Incentive will post the results of the vote following the 17 September cutoff date.

Source: Incentive, Northstar Meetings Group