Originally Posted by JT
Potential other explanation...
From: Lee Stubberfield
Sent: Thursday, August 22, 2013 7:06 PM
Subject: Update on Status to Officers
As most of you know, there has been some pretty upsetting stuff floating around about the club and its relationship with the manufacturer. We know that it has upset our membership, and made us all as leaders look foolish. On Wednesday Chrysler sent a letter to the four national officers. An unknown then sent it to at least one board member, Jim Johnson. Mr. Johnson has had absolutely no official or authorized dealings with Chrysler as it relates to VCA business. However he has chosen to take that private letter, knowing absolutely none of the background whatsoever, and then used it as some sort of catalyst to make the club look bad. Forwarding not only the letter but private email conversations between Board Members. These actions resulted in not only the letter but the comments between board members going viral on the internet.
We have a call scheduled with the VCA Board of Directors to give them the full background and why that letter should not be misconstrued as any sort of slight to the club - it is not. However we now know that Mr. Johnson is trying to spread misinformation. His actions have been damaging and unacceptable. He knew nothing of the relationship with Chrysler. It's time you should.
As discussed in the January board meeting, there was a gap developing between SRT, the club, and Viper owners in general. People sent letters to Chrysler expressing their concerns about that gap and what could be done to fix it. At least one letter was signed and the Chrysler Business Practices Office (their version of Internal Affairs) contacted the author. He suggested that they also talk to past club leaders such as Chris Marshall and Marv Spatz to get more of the history of the club. Neither Marv or Chris contacted them. They were contacted by the CBPO.
Over the course of a few months, they had several private conversations with that Chrysler group. In May the link to the VCA was removed from the DriveSRT.com site. That Business Practices Office within Chrysler was notified and got it restored. At that point that same office notified them that the club would have new contacts at Chrysler going forward. As such, that office asked Chris & Marv to come to Auburn Hills to talk to those gentlemen about the club. No negotiations or decisions to be made, it was simply an informal meeting to discuss Chryslers involvement in past years, how Chrysler could help the club with things like COOL memberships, online chats, and magazine articles. And how the club could help Chrysler. During this process they shared all the clubs financial documents as well as VPA, and the structure and the organization of the club. No faults were found.
Now, many of you are in business and are probably familiar with internal investigations and other such things within big corporations. Those discussions are held very, very closely - lest they cause unwarranted damage in or outside the company. Chrysler made it VERY clear to both Marv and Chris that they were not to disclose these discussions elsewhere, including to other club members or officers. A very obvious reason why they had those restrictions has been shown by Jim Johnson who, armed with no actual facts at all, is now causing unwarranted chaos in and out of the club. So when they went to Auburn Hills for that first meeting they made sure to point out who Chrysler should be working with in the future when it came to keeping that relationship strong in the future - the new national officers. Marv and Chris then immediately called Dan and myself - right there from Auburn Hills. They brought us up to speed and said that they expected these new Chrysler contacts for the club, including Pat, to reach out to us. This was the first that any of the new national officers knew about these ongoing conversations. Chrysler want to designate a limited contact from their side and one from ours. I chose to include Dan as there were serious financial issues to discuss.
A few weeks later and they did. They sent an invitation to me and Chris directly. They made it very clear that there would be no discussion of VPA during that meeting - their policy was very strict about mixing for-profit business with non-profit. Remember that Viper Parts of America has partnered with Mopar specifically - not SRT. With these new contacts representing Mopar specifically, Mopar is very careful in how they separate their business. In the end both Dan and I attended as official representatives of the VCA, with Chris sitting in simply to answer questions about the magazine and COOL memberships. Remember that the National Business Office (which was the for-profit JR Thompson Company, then Coast to Coast Management) has always handled all of the day-to-day business of the club, including maintaining all records and coordinating various things with Chrysler such as plant tours, COOL memberships, car corrals, etc. Chris was there to help represent the back office of the club, as he obviously has no board or officer authority whatsoever.
The problem arose when they had asked for records relating to logo use, including a signed magazine advertising agreement with a company against which they have an active legal injunction. Let's make that very clear - Chrysler has a legal injunction against this company for using protected logos without authorization. Because the club had a signed advertising agreement from that same company that claimed they had those rights, Chrysler wanted a copy of it. Well, not one single national officer keeps those records - it is all maintained by the National Business Office - Coast to Coast. So Chris forwarded that from his own email to Pat Dougherty and the Chrysler trademark attorney. Chris also forwarded on other documents that they requested, including the club bylaws.
Unfortunately, Mopar had not been briefed on how the club has always operated with a for-profit company doing all of the back office work. It was JR Thompson Company for the first 15 years and Coast to Coast Management since then. They did not understand that Coast to Coast (a for-profit company) maintains those records and would be forwarding them on. It has NOTHING to do with running the club, but everything to do with running the back end business. Needless to say, Mopar was baffled as they did not understand why a non-officer was sending them these documents - and that person was the same person they normally dealt with from Viper Parts of America. We never covered it in any of our meetings and we paid the price when that letter was distributed beyond the national officers earlier this week.
For those that have seen that letter, pay very careful attention to this critical piece: "Without an understanding from VCA as to the concrete steps that will be taken by VCA to create a meaningful wall between the “for profit” business and the “club,” this will be a difficult meeting with an unknown outcome." Mopar simply didn't understand that the Viper Club, just like the Ferrari Club and most other national car clubs, is "run" by a for-profit company that handles all of their record keeping and day-to-day business. That company makes ZERO decisions for the club and Chris made absolutely no attempt to do so. For example, he gathered bids for the magazine printing and presented them to us to decide, which we did. In this case he had simply forwarded them documents that they requested as any good admin assistant would do, but the separation between VPA and VCA was not clear at all.
Yesterday we spoke at length with Pat Dougherty, the gentleman from Mopar that authored that letter. He was not aware of the way the club is set up, nor that other clubs have very similar management structures: Decisions are made entirely by club officers (volunteers) while the paid staff or management company then follows through to support those decisions.
We will continue to work with Chrysler to make sure they know exactly how the club is set up. The club is doing all the right things and hitting on all cylinders. There will be a few hiccups as both parties figure out the other in more detail. None of them indicate any inherent problems whatsoever, other than the above statement, which we told them we would address to their satisfaction. There is a specific issue to be addressed with the flow of Cool money through our membership management company and the fact that one of our membership employees also works for a Mopar dealership. Had the issue of Cool money not come up in a positive way, as in reinstating it, that letter would not have been written
However, when a club officer, especially a board member or national officer, operates outside the best interests of the club then there is a problem - a very big one at that. That letter from Chrysler was addressed very specifically to me and had Mr. Johnson made any attempt to find out what prompted it he would have learned what you have here. However he chose to use it as a wedge to divide the club and turn people against each other. This, for a club that continues to experience membership growth every year, just sold out its latest raffle, and is building an even stronger relationship with the manufacturer. Given his actions, Mr. Johnson has been temporarily suspended from the VCA Board of Directors. Sensitive matters such as the above involving the Club and the Corporation obviously cannot be discussed in his presence. The Full Board will meet and decide on Mr. Johnson’s eventual status in the future. Mr Johnson will be accorded every opportunity to defend himself. But at this point he has proven that he can not be trusted to keep confidential items he agreed to do so in his agreement.