Saturday, March 03, 2007

UI Held Hostage Day 406 - March 3 - Updates

March 3, 11:25 a.m., 6:15 p.m.; March 4, 5:15 p.m. ( and branding consultant Denise Wymore's UICCU meeting entry and additional comments; Jeff Cox's defense of the integrity of the petition in the Thingnamer/Stokefire blog (disposing of the "signers were lied to" charge) and J.D.'s offer of alternative names); March 7, 9:00 a.m. (Greg, "Optiva No More," Hermits Rock, March 1, 2007; Steve Cunningham, "Why Does UICCU Need to Expand?" Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 7, 2007)

It's time to catch up with: What's happened at the UICCU since the memorial service for "Optiva" February 28? The UI Presidential Search Committee II? Mary Gilchrist's law suit?

Note: This blog entry will be revised from time to time with the addition of post-February 28 items worthy of historical note for the record. But unless some major news occurs it will be the last blog entry as such regarding the UICCU/"Optiva" issue.

UICCU and "Optiva"

$400,000-plus For Name Change but No $35 for the Domain Name's Financial Services Resource Group (the outfit that made and posted the 1 hour 19 minute audio of the February 28 meeting, linked from its page) has some nice things to say about the UICCU's performance (12th in the nation), but also went on to do some research on domain names. No cybersquatter -- the organization makes names available to their true owner for one penny -- they present some interesting stats on Google hits from "Optiva Credit Union" and "UICCU," etc., but go on to report that has long-since been taken, and that had not been claimed by UICCU. Nor, for that matter, had University of Iowa Community Credit

Why should that have been the first thing Weber would recommend and the UICCU's administration would do? Not necessarily because they would want to make such names (and there would be others as well) their main, advertised, domain name (though they might). It's because savvy businesses, and non-profits, know to grab every domain name that (a) they might want to use in the future, (b) that a competitor (or cybersquatter) might grab, or (c) that is sufficiently obvious, or confusingly close, that a present, or potential, customer might use it either in a Google search or directly in the URL address line. (The names owned, but not used, by the organization are then programmed to automatically forward to the main domain name that is used.)

Certainly, with over $400,000 committed to this project another $35 wouldn't be enough to "break the bank."

Disterhoft is "Excited and Pleased"

According to the Credit Union Times, "'We’re excited and pleased that the democratic process was carried out by the board of directors,” Disterhoft said. "My hat's off to the board of directors for encouraging the democratic principles we were founded on some 70 years ago.'” (The story is linked, below.)

But Dave DeWitte and George Ford report in The Gazette, linked below: "Jeff Disterhoft, president of the University of Iowa Community Credit Union, attributed Wednesday’s vote to a rejection of the Optiva name. 'In the end, I think people were just not comfortable with the name itself,' Disterhoft said. . . . Disterhoft said about $400,000 was spent . . .. 'On Oct. 4, when the members voted to change the name of the credit union effective March 1, there was no choice but to move forward and spend these funds,' Disterhoft said. . . . ' We really had no other option.'"

These statements come much closer to what I perceive as the problem: the Board and CEO's equating of (a) compliance with minimal legal requirements as the extent of their responsibility to the membership, (b) the votes at a membership meeting (or results of "focus groups") with "the opinion of the membership," and (c) the simple (and minipulated) majority of a near-tie on a highly controversial major issue as a "mandate" to move ahead."

Why? (a) "the democratic principles we were founded on some 70 years ago," to quote Disterhoft, require seeking out, and endeavoring to execute, the wishes of the membership -- not making decisions first and then trying to persuade the membership, and at least minimally comply with any legal requirements regarding membership involvement, (b) there are far more members, whose opinions deserve to be taken into account, than there are members willing to come to meetings; you would not want a "meeting" of 45,000 members anyway, but modern technology makes it cheap and easy to gather their opinions, and (c) it is probably best not to try to move ahead with proposals that are (1) significant, (2) emotionally charged, (3) divisive, and (4) and as to which the membership of a membership organization is very evenly divided -- even if there had been a polling of all members first. To bull ahead with a management-originated plan anyway, with no more authorization that a very nearly evenly split result (198-192) at a membership meeting attended by less than 1% of the membership is a guarantee of disaster -- as occurred last Wednesday.

As the Press-Citizen put it in its March 2 editorial, linked below, "[T]the board and staff should have recognized that such a razor-thin margin [as came out of the October 4 meeting] was not a mandate. . . . In Iowa . . . consensus is the rule-of-thumb for politics -- especially for institutions designed to be more cooperative than profit-driven." (On the other hand, the editorial cited the reasons advanced for the name change (easing geographical expansion and removing confusion about the necessity of a UI tie for membership) without the reasons to oppose it, and characterized the choice of names as one between "whether the credit union should keep its lengthy, regionally tied name or streamline to the sleeker and non-geographically specific, Optiva" -- not that the paper isn't just as entitled to its opinion as any of the rest of us.)

It is (probably) not true that they "had no other option." Presumably the October 4 resolution, if it was properly drafted, would have authorized, not mandated, the Board to adopt a name change. What I recommended to both the Board and the CEO, and clearly laid out, was the option they did have, and refused to consider: that they obtain the opinion of the entire membership (whether by post, scientific sampling, or online). If an overwhelming majority of the entire membership (that is, those willing to express a view) favored the "Optiva" name change they might still want to reconsider the idea if there was an emotional and outspoken substantial minority in opposition. But at least they would have made an effort to obtain a broader base of the membership's will. If an overwhelming majority opposed it, they would be well advised to drop the idea. Instead, they chose to rest on the fact they had complied with the legal minimums and had their 6-vote "majority" from a membership meeting (which they had loaded with most of the 150 employee-members who were paid overtime to attend).

To this day -- to the best of my knowledge -- no one in the UICCU's administration or Board has made a statement indicating that they understand they made a mistake, or that the issue was about more than just a name, that it went to the heart of their anti-democratic management of a democratic membership organization. (As Disterhoft is quoted as saying, above, "people were just not comfortable with the name." Yes, and you were unaware of that before the meeting? And why were you unaware? Or were you aware, and prepared to go ahead with it anyway, knowing that the membership was "not comfortable with the name," if you had received the kind of slim majority of those voting that you got in October?)

Press-Citizen Readers Continue "Membership Meeting" Discussion

The Press-Citizen's March 1 story on the February 28 meeting now carries some 68 comments from readers (as of the evening of March 2). (Those 68 comments are in a file linked, below, that also contains a link to the March 1 story.)

Possible Board Membership Challenge

Dave DeWitte and George Ford report in The Gazette that there's a move afoot, perhaps among some of those who signed the petition calling for the February 28 meeting, to put together a slate of new candidates for the Board to be presented at the March 21 annual membership meeting. It's linked below.

[March 7, 2007: "Greg" in the Hermits Rock blog, linked below, describes the February 28 meeting.

Steve Cunningham asks, in the March 7 Press-Citizen, also linked below, "Why Does UICCU Need to Expand?" to which "PeterJ" responds by way of an entered comment: "The salary of the president of a credit union increases with the assets of the credit union. Hence, there is a big incentive for the president to push growth above everything else."

Disterhoft's motives aside (and who can know another's motives for sure?), there really was a two-step foundation to the Board's argument here for which the first issue tended to get overlooked. (1) We need to expand. (2) In order to expand we need a non-geographical name.

Sometimes a restaurant, or other business, that is quite successfully locally sort of falls apart when it expands geographically. What are the pros and cons, the benefits and costs, what does the data show, with regard to the geographical expansion of credit unions throughout this country? How have the members been advantaged by expansion? (My own experience is that my "bank" (as distinguished from my credit union) has been less satisfactory, not more, as it has joined larger and larger operations through merger. Why would a credit union be different? I'm not saying it wouldn't be different; I'm just asking why it would be.)

The questions are not necessarily related. That is, we might decide that we would be advantaged by expanding, but that we don't need to change our name to do so -- or that we don't need to change our name to a nonsense word (and I mean that in the descriptive, rather than the pejorative sense) to do so (although we might decide we would benefit from, or wanted to anyway, change our name to something other than UICCU). Similarly, we might decide that we would be disadvantaged (or at least not advantaged) by expanding substantially, and yet we want to change our name anyway for other reasons.

Cunningham has highlighted the importance of addressing the expansion issue head on -- however we come out on it -- and I'm grateful to him for doing that.]

UI Presidential Search Committee II

It being Saturday, the local papers report on the Friday meetings of the Search Committee II -- since, with the new policy of openness, the meetings are open to media and public.

There was discussion of desirable qualities in a president, from the Committee members' perspective. Diane Heldt reports that the "qualities committee members want include high energy, the ability to articulate a vision and develop goals for the UI, being a spokesperson — whether it be communicating successes or crisis management — and success in fundraising." But she quotes College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Linda Maxson as saying, "I think [intellectual leadership] has to go at the top of the list. I think that's the single most distinguishing characteristic we’re looking for." The story is linked below.

Brian Morelli's story in the Press-Citizen this morning, while also picking up on the "intellectual leader" emphasis put the rest of the list of desired qualities this way: "high energy, ability and enjoyment to fundraise, strategic thinking, executive decision-making, the ability to oversee without meddling and ability for crisis management."

Morelli has another interesting story ("UI Search Opposite of 1st"), also linked below, in which he quotes Faculty Senate President Sheldon Kurtz as saying, "Search two, from a process perspective is much more open. In fact, it is infinitely more open." And it also includes a bewildering exchange with Regents President Michael Gartner:

"[T]he closed nature of the first search, which didn't announce its meetings, didn't hold them in public and provided few updates caused uneasiness on campus and in the state.

"'There is a good possibility that search one was not conducted in accordance with the rules,' Kurtz said. 'They didn't have a committee chaired by a person that understood the university world. (Initial search committee chairwoman Teresa Wahlert) understood the corporate world."

"Wahlert, the chief operating officer of the Mid-America Group in Des Moines, did not return phone messages Friday. Regent President Michael Gartner, who was one of four regents on the initial 19-person search committee, said he wasn't involved in the decision making for the initial search and didn't know where the advice came from to use a closed process.

"'I was not involved. You would have to ask Teresa,' Gartner said."

"I was not involved"? Gartner "was not involved"? Gartner is involved in everything. Gartner calls the shots; he speaks as if he was the Board of Regents. One can only speculate as to why he would have said this, and transfer all responsibility for the fiasco of Search Committee I to Ms. Wahlert's shoulders.

Mary Gilchrist's Law Suit

Gregg Hennigan reports in this morning's Gazette that, having lost an early motion, with the judge's blessing Gilchrist and her lawyer are preparing to move ahead with a jury trial. (The story is linked, below.)

# # #

[Note: If you're new to this blog, and interested in the whole UI President Search story . . .

These blog entries begin with Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search I," November 18, 2006.

Wondering where the "UI Held Hostage" came from? Click here. (As of January 25 the count has run from January 21, 2006, rather than last November.)

For any given entry, links to the prior 10 will be found in the left-most column. Going directly to will take you to the latest. Each contains links to the full text of virtually all known media stories and commentary, including mine, since the last blog entry. Together they represent what The Chronicle of Higher Education has called "one of the most comprehensive analyses of the controversy." The last time there was an entry containing the summary of prior entries' commentary (with the heading "This Blog's Focus on Regents' Presidential Search") is Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search XIII -- Last Week," December 11, 2006.

My early proposed solution to the conflict is provided in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search VII: The Answer," November 26, 2006.

Searching: the fullest collection of basic documents related to the search is contained in Nicholas Johnson, "UI President Search - Dec. 21-25," December 21, 2006 (and updated thereafter), at the bottom of that blog entry under "References." A Blog Index of entries on all subjects since June 2006 is also available. And note that if you know (or can guess at) a word to search on, the "Blogger" bar near the top of your browser has a blank, followed by "SEARCH THIS BLOG," that enables you to search all entries in this Blog since June 2006.]

# # #

Media Stories and Commentary

"Disterhoft Pleased with ‘Democratic’ Name Voting Process, Ready to Move Forward," Credit Union Times, March 1, 2007

Diane Heldt, "Committee Members Desire an Intellectual Leader," The Gazette, March 3, 2007

Gregg Hennigan, "Judge Says Gilchrist Can Continue Case to Fight for Job," The Gazette, March 3, 2007

Dave DeWitte and George C. Ford, "Board Changes Sought At UI Credit Union," The Gazette, March 2, 2007

Editorial, "The Strength of UI Community Credit Union," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 2, 2007

Steve Cunningham, "Why Does UICCU Need to Expand?" Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 7, 2007, plus readers' comments

Brian Morelli, "Committee Wants Intellectual Leader; Next UI President Should 'Set a Tone,'" Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 3, 2007

Brian Morelli, "New UI Search Opposite of 1st," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 3, 2007

"Reader Comments Regarding Kathryn Fiegen, 'Members have spoken: UICCU it is; 1,437 cast votes about whether to change name to Optiva," Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 1, 2007 -- 68 Comments Through March 2, 2007, and with link to Fiegen's story

Nicholas Johnson Blog Entries Regarding Optiva

"Optiva Voted Down" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 404 - March 1 -- Optiva,"
March 1, 2007

"The Feb. 28 UICCU/'Optiva' Credit Union Meeting" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 402 - Feb. 27 -- Optiva," February 27, 2007, Revised February 28, 2007

"What the Credit Union Feb. 28 Meeting is Really About" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 398 - Feb. 23 -- Optiva," February 23, 2007

"UICCU and 'Optiva'" in Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 392 - Feb. 17," February 17, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "UI Held Hostage Day 62 - Revisiting Optiva," January 17, 2007

Nicholas Johnson, "Seattle's Optiva," October 23, 2006

Nicholas Johnson, "Optiva," October 13, 2006

Others' Blogs

Denise Wymore (branding consultant), "Lessons to Be Learned From the University of Iowa,", March 2, 2007

Greg, "Optiva No More," Hermits Rock, March 1, 2007

Denise Wymore (branding consultant), "I Convinced Them Not to Change the Name,", February 20, 2007 (comment to Tate Linden, "Optiva -- Turning the House to Screw in the Bulb?" February 19, 2007)

Jeff Cox, "Tired of Hearing Credit Union Employees Asserting Petitioners Lied,", March 3, 2007
(comment to Tate Linden, "Optiva -- Turning the House to Screw in the Bulb?" February 19, 2007)

J.D.'s Blog Bites (J.D. Mendenhall), "Optiv-Out!" March 3, 2007

Open Country (Maria Houser Conzemius), "Not So Fast, 'Optiva'!" March 1, 2007

Thingnamer (Tate Linden/Stokefire), "UICCU -- The Credit Union Formerly Known as Optiva . . . OptivEx . . . Noptiva," March 1, 2007


The Credit Union Membership Access Act of 1998, Sec. 2(4)

National Credit Union Administration

National Association of Federal Credit Unions

State of Iowa Credit Union Division

The Credit Union Difference," on the site of the USA Federal Credit Union

Iowa Credit Union League

The Credit Union Journal

Credit Union Times


Optiva Promotional Video

UICCU Membership Meeting, February 28, 2007, audio (a one-hour-19-minute audio recording of the meeting is now available online, courtesy of Financial Services Resource Group (go to "UICCU -- Can Your Financial Institution Do That?" and click on link).)

Cintara's POPwink blog

Denise Wymore (branding consultant)

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Nicholas Johnson's Main Web Site
Nicholas Johnson's Iowa Rain Forest ("Earthpark") Web Site
Nicholas Johnson's Blog, FromDC2Iowa
Nicholas Johnson's Blog Index


Anonymous said...

Hi Nicholas:

One additional domain comment. The Credit Union did buy $8.95!) on July 6, 2006, which forwards to their present website.

Anonymous said...

I think the administration and board have taken enough of a beating on this.

The Optiva episode is a collective mistake. Time to move on.

Please Please do not vote Jeff Cox on the Board. That would be a bigger joke than Optiva.

Anonymous said...

Link to the Optiva video is defunct.

Anonymous said...

16,883 words later, Nick finally vows to put the issue to rest. Somehow I doubt that a guy who can write 35 single-spaced pages about a topic will actually be able to let it go...