2008 Bylaws Vote: The Results

Proposal 1: “Allowing the Board of Directors to Define Membership Classes, i.e., Opening Membership Classes to Include Other Financial Professionals”

  • Yes – 47% (510 votes)
  • No – 53% (577 votes)

Proposal 2: “Use of Electronic Ballots for Future Bylaws Vote”

  • Yes – 88% (954 votes)
  • No – 12% (132 votes)

Society members have approved electronic balloting for future bylaws proposals (Proposal 2), but by simple majority declined to delegate definition of membership eligibility specifics to the CSCPA Board of Directors (Proposal 1). The voting on the proposed 2008 bylaws revision closed on December 29, 2008, with 1,094 ballots cast. Bylaws amendments require an affirmative vote of two-thirds for adoption.

Proposal 2, adopted immediately, eliminates future costly business-reply-mail bylaws votes by allowing for electronic balloting. Members will be notified of any future bylaw revision votes via several media, but each member will cast his or her single vote via the CSCPA website.

Proposal 1 would have eliminated the definition of specific classes of membership in the CSCPA bylaws, defining only broad categories of voting (CPA members) and non-voting (non-CPA members). Further details of these categories would have been delegated to the Board of Directors. The intent behind the proposal was to build in flexibility in anticipation of further changes within the profession and those it comprises. The proposal would have enabled relevant non-CPAs (such as paraprofessionals at public accounting firms and individuals in government, education, and industry who are engaged in taxation or financial reporting functions) to formally affiliate with the CSCPA.

Reaction from CSCPA President John Turgeon

"I was surprised and disappointed by the vote on Proposal 1," said Society President John Turgeon. "I didn’t expect a unanimous vote in favor, but I was surprised that it lost by simple majority.

"On a more positive note, I was very pleased to see that our membership overwhelmingly supported our ability to conduct future bylaws votes electronically. Doing so will allow us conduct any future vote we put before our members in a much more efficient manner – from distribution to tabulation – and save us a great deal of money along the way, as a typical bylaws vote can cost us as much as $15,000 for printing and mailing."

Three common objections …

"In talking to people, I think there were three common objections to Proposal 1," Mr. Turgeon continued. "First, that non-CPAs would be flocking to the CSCPA ... second, if a person is not a CPA, but identified him or herself as a member of the CSCPA, there could be some confusion among the public ... and third, that someone could abuse their membership by coming in and promoting their services and doing things contrary to the CSCPA bylaws. But I found that when I talked these points through with people, they felt more comfortable.

"We are not going to have thousands of people flocking to the Society just because the doors have opened up; we’re only going to get those who are truly interested in the profession and want to contribute to it, as there are too many demands on people’s time for it to be otherwise.

"And people may not have realized – and I say ‘may’ – that voting privileges would rest only with the CPA members. The controlling interest would still be with the CPAs. With respect to some ‘renegade’ individual somehow abusing the privileges of membership, nothing’s changed, as the Society still reserves the right to terminate the membership of such an individual."

Non-CPAs already active in the CSCPA

"I have also shared with people the fact that we have had non-CPA ‘members’ for years in the form of Pledges, Affiliates, and even members of certain committees where non-CPA membership had been approved. In fact, I was part of building that Pledge ‘link’ between those who see the potential of a career path as a CPA and those who are well along their way. We have allowed [non-CPAs] to be active and involved without giving them voting privileges, and bad things haven’t happened. I’m not sure people understood that, and I think that’s why the vote was essentially 50-50."

Most other state CPA societies allow non-CPA membership

"We also talked about how 80 percent of the other state CPA societies have extended membership to non-CPAs with no adverse effects. That is not a reason for our doing so, but it does provide comfort in that it demonstrates that our ranks will not be filled with those who would operate our detriment."

I do hope that the CSCPA will continue to focus on this in the future …

"We need to constantly assess the landscape ... I’m not talking about ‘change for change’s sake,’ but where we need to remain agile, such as with the restructuring of our governance structure several years ago with a great deal of success by being more nimble, recognizing the demands on people’s time, and [building in flexibility to the CSCPA leadership experience].

"I do hope that the CSCPA will continue to focus on this in the future, I think it’s important that we do. However, I think that before we put forth another vote, we need to understand more thoroughly why those who voted against Proposal 1 chose to take that position.

"Clearly the Marien Committee (the CSCPA Membership Task Force, chaired by Treasurer Marcia Marien) worked very hard, as did the Board of Directors in their discussions of the proposal, and we didn’t anticipate the response we received to Proposal 1, as all of the signs painted a more positive picture ... so I do think it’s important we understand these issues and consider it again in the future, and I hope that it’s not too far out."

Why did we do this, and why now?

"Why did we do this, and why now? Well, we can’t roll back the clock, so the earliest we can do this is now. I think this is probably something we should have looked at years back ... much like the change in allowing people to sit for the CPA Exam before they have the 150 hours of education, it’s another incentive to allow a person to get involved and find out if this is right for them perhaps before they’re able to make the full commitment.

"We need to continue to attract members and the future leadership of the Society, and we’re going to need to not just open up the doors, but open up the doors in a way that allows people to come in and contribute and learn, and to obviously take something back to their positions.

"These people are contributing to their profession through their jobs – many of whom are doing so at accounting firms today – now they could contribute to their profession through the CSCPA. The information sharing really makes all of us better, and really brings more value to everyone’s CSCPA membership."