Rinzler for AILA Treasurer Campaign Statement

by Kenneth Rinzler

Rinzler for Treasurer Campaign Statement

What AILA Needs

I do not know Annaluisa Padilla, but I do not question the quality of her legal services, her substantial pro bono work, or her contributions to the community. She has won awards, served in AILA leadership positions, and presented at AILA conferences. As an immigrant herself, she brings unique personal experience to the practice of immigration law and presents to the public a positive image of which any organization would be proud.

While the above qualities are admirable, they are not what AILA needs in its Treasurer

As many of us know by now, AILA is ill, suffering from lack of transparency and accountability, wasteful spending, overpriced conferences, leaders that take members for granted, top staff who receive annual raises of unconscionable size, emphasis on advocacy at the expense of membership services, refusal to poll membership about AILA priorities, “insider trading” of committee appointments and other perks, and an Executive Committee that ignores bylaws at will, including stripping of membership rights of members who vocally oppose the status quo.

The right Treasurer will cast much-needed sunlight onto AILA administration;

I am the right person, at the right time, and prepared for that responsibility

I wish to serve in this position only. Rather than rise unchallenged through the standard seven years of “elected” ranks, my exclusive purpose is to initiate transparent practices from which there can be no subsequent retreat. Although ExCom membership has, since I joined AILA in 1992, constituted a virtual lifetime appointment, I do not believe in that system or its value to the organization. And since I live in Washington, DC, I would as your elected fiscal representative frequent AILA’s headquarters, scrutinize every financial record, and share findings with the membership as comprehensively as law permits. I will be fair and professional, but also as tenacious as necessary.

Some examples of where transparency is needed:

Annual conference. Members have the right to know the disposition of conference proceeds, including benefits provided at no charge. Although this information has been treated as “classified” to date under the thin pretense that “no one would deal with us anymore” if the truth were disclosed, I have opposed such secrecy and am determined to end it.

Contractors: Members have a right to know what is paid to contractors from their payments for dues and services. AILA’s 2011 tax return, for example, open by law to the public, shows payment of the following:

· $405,000 to Global Village Publishing of Alexandria, VA, for “software and hosting services”;

· $197,000 to ASAP Mailing and Fulfillment Center of Sterling, VA, for “advertising services”;

· $181,000 to Tasco of Waldorf, MD, for “warehouse and fulfillment services”;

· $132,000 to The Novick Group of Rockville, MD, for “insurance”.

Members should know – and demand the right to know -- how these contractors were selected and whether AILA’s contracting procedures ensure such standard protections as competitive costs of services and avoidance of conflicts of interest.

Insider Loans: Select members and the then Executive Director were given the private opportunity to make loans to the Association at an 8% annual return for ten years. These loans were not disclosed to the membership at the time (except on the tax return as required by law), and only became truly public as a result of my research. The general membership was never allowed to participate.

Legal Services: Conflict of interest should not be tolerated of any appointed or elected AILA representative, least of all any individual charged with legal determinations to protect the organization. For example, although currently so, it is unreasonable if not unconscionable for a paid General Counsel -- particularly if not subject to applicable Bar Association oversight -- to rule on the ethics of ExCom member services covered from organizational proceeds while serving as a member.

Advocacy: If members support use of their organization’s resources to advocate, they should have a prominent role in identifying the outcomes to be advocated. To date, this most basic right of determination has been refused in favor of the opinions of ExCom members who have run virtually unopposed for office and elected by approximately only 25% of the membership, and staff whom the ExCom selects.

Your vote can change things

As a campaign progresses that will challenge the status quo and current power balance, I appeal to you to think about what AILA-of-the-future needs rather than what AILA-of-the-present wants. I am your opportunity for a representative who is as fiercely dedicated as he is fiercely unbiased and unbeholden to anyone. Having spent the last few years documenting deficiencies and advocating improvements, I know what must be done and am dedicated to doing so diligently, thoroughly, and fairly, to facing down obstacles along the way, and to asking for your input and support as my efforts proceed. AILA is composed of legal professionals of high standards and must not only be held to the same high standards, but be responsive and fully accountable to its members. I am committed to that goal.

About The Author

Kenneth Rinzler is an immigration lawyer in Washington, DC, and a frequent visitor to consular posts, having now traveled to 40 countries. A graduate of Georgetown University and Seton Hall University School of Law, he is a member of the District of Columbia, Indiana, New Jersey, and U.S. Supreme Court Bars. In addition to authoring articles for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), he has written on immigration law for the German American Chamber of Commerce. Before specializing in immigration law, he spent nearly ten years working as a legislative assistant and counsel to a U.S. Congressman, and thus has an intimate knowledge of Federal legislative and administrative procedures.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.