AILA NEEDS RINZLER

by Kenneth Rinzler

Dear AILA Colleague:

I know this is incredibly long, but if you have a real interest in how AILA is governed you will read it. It is the only way I can effectively campaign, as the national office has banned me from the InfoNet Message Center because I have embarrassed them. This will become my record, my words, not what the ExCom falsely claims I have said and done. And whether I win or lose the election, at least this way I will have gotten my story out without distortion.

On Friday, May 17, electronic balloting will commence for the election for officer positions for AILA’s Executive Committee (the “ExCom”). The ExCom is the handful of people who really run AILA; the Board of Governors (BOG) is primarily window dressing. And a key person on the ExCom is AILA’s Executive Director, Ms. Crystal Williams, who is the real power behind the AILA throne (and who received a compensation package of $276,792 in 2011 according to AILA’s Federal tax return for that year; it probably approaches $300,000 as of now).

Under Article III, Section 7B of AILA’s Bylaws, the ExCom consists solely of the elected offices of the President, The President-elect, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary, plus the Executive Director as an ex officio non-voting member. The bylaws do not allow for any other persons to be members of the ExCom, even as non-voting members, but as with all things AILA the ExCom decided to ignore the bylaws and made the Immediate Past President and General Counsel non-voting members of the ExCom as well. This gross violation of the bylaws is keeping with similar violations, such as last year’s nominating fiasco with Ms. Annaluisa Padilla, our current Secretary who is now the leadership’s pick for Treasurer (the only contested position on the ExCom ballot).

The ExCom has become a hereditary appointment. I have been a member of AILA since 1992, yet in all that time the nominating committee (indirectly/ultimately handpicked and controlled by the ExCom) has only ever nominated one candidate per office, thus virtually guaranteeing election in virtually every election. Although nominations by petition are allowed, and is how I am on the ballot this year, it is an extremely difficult way to be elected, and this is especially so when one is banned from utilizing the Message Center – as I am – during a campaign. (More on that later.) Once on the ExCom, normally at the entry-level position of Secretary, a person is guaranteed re-election for the next five years, going up the ladder, and then one more to assume the illegal membership as Immediate Past President - a total of seven years. Let me repeat that: if you are elected to the one year term as Secretary, you really are being “elected” to a seven year term to the ruling oligarchy. Make no mistake about that. And as normally there is only one candidate per office, these are not elections but appointments.

In January of this year I qualified by petition to run for the position of Treasurer. It is the only time I have ever run for any AILA office at any level, and was not something I really wanted to do. But as will be explained below, I feel that AILA has become so incestuous, so wasteful, and – especially --so absolutely lacking in transparency in virtually everything it does, that I felt compelled to run to try to do my bit to address these concerns. And unlike other candidates throughout the history of AILA, I stated then and repeat now that I have no desire to remain a member of the ExCom and then Board of Governors until I need to attend meetings while in my 90’s and on life-support; rather I intend to serve only a one year term and force AILA to adopt policies of transparency from which there would be no turning back. It’s as simple as that.

It was my desire to force the ExCom to adopt policies of transparency that I have spent a good deal of time the past few years posting on the InfoNet Message Center (the “MC”) some of the abuses perpetrated by the ExCom in the running of AILA. It was the extreme embarrassment caused to the ExCom that was the real reason behind their decision to illegally ban me and fellow member Susan McFadden of London (for supporting me), the first and only bans ever implemented by AILA. Again, more on that later.

Here are some of the issues and recommendations I have highlighted and why the ExCom has reason to be embarrassed at their improper governance of our organization:

  1. AILA's Federal tax returns (IRS Form 990). Returns of not for profit organizations such as AILA are required under Federal law to be made available to not only the membership, but the public at large. Despite numerous requests to Ms. Williams to post the returns on InfoNet, she consistently refused to do so until I obtained them from third party sources and published them myself. As it turned out, Ms. Williams had good reason to want to hide them. First, they were filled with inaccuracies (for example, ALA has stated year after year that it has no chapters), to the point where AILA even had to file an amended return. Second, they disclosed the insider loans which AILA utilized in the 1990’s (ten years at 8% annual return) to finance the purchase of its headquarters, loans which even involved AILA borrowing money from its then Executive Director, Jeanne Butterfield, as well as the $100,000 royalty payment to a prominent member that AILA “forgot” to disclose in its initial filing. Third, they showed the high and top-heavy salaries paid to the top tier of AILA’s staff ($276,892 in compensation to Ms. Williams as per the 2011 return, up from $248,257 in 2010; no doubt about $300,000 today considering the double-digit annual raises normally received by Ms. Williams – 27% in 2010 and 11.5% for in 2011). Fourth, it documented how AILA plays a shell game with its relationship with the American Immigration Council (AIC), including the fact that AILA subsidizes AIC to the tune of roughly $600,000 annually through the direct and indirect use of national and chapter dues, with a good deal of this money going towards advocacy efforts in the name of the membership (despite the fact that the membership is never asked what the advocacy objectives, if any, should be, but more on that later as well.) There were other issues as well, but you get the idea. It was because of my probing that AILA finally published its 2011 tax return on the website, although without making a commitment to continue to do so in the future.

  2. The wasteful spending on BOG meetings held outside of the U.S. In September 2012 it was Montreal, while in January of this year it was Panama. Not only is there no rationale whatsoever to hold BOG meetings outside of the U.S., especially when we have this expensive headquarters building in Washington, DC, but it virtually ensures that few people will bother to attend.

  3. Related to this, is the fact that substantive agendas are never published sufficiently in advance of these BOG meetings, despite repeated promises by the ExCom to do so. There is no reason for members to spend time and money to attend meetings – meetings where the fix is in anyway – when they don’t even know what is to be discussed.

  4. Eliminate or greatly reduce insider transactions, and have all future ones brought to the attention of the general membership for input before possible acceptance. The ones I have highlighted over the past few months may have been technically legal, but they sure don't pass the smell test. Perception counts. AILA has no serious conflict of interests policy as it’s the same select groups of people who ever get to pass on these things.

  5. Related to this, the idea that AILA’s General Counsel, David Leopold, is a former past President and current member of the ExCom is simply laughable. He is issuing rulings on his own past actions, which is no one’s idea of a best practice. We are a group of over 12,000 attorneys, and we have to select someone from the ExCom to be General Counsel? Another failure of the "smell test".

  6. Nominate more than one candidate per office, and announce the individual vote totals. Although the ExCom finally agreed to announce the individual vote totals for this coming election, they again gave a hearty slap in the face to the membership by only nominating one candidate per office for the upcoming election. Again, over 12,000 members, and they can only come up with six candidates for six offices? Can you imagine if American politics operated that way? No Presidential primaries, etc. And the only reason the ExCom ever gives for the way they do things is "because that’s the way it’s always been done; don’t question us, we know best."

  7. Acknowledge that advocacy has become an overriding concern of the organization, and consider ways of recognizing the views of members who feel that purely political issues such as amnesty (whether standalone or as part of CIR) should not be presented to the outside world as representing the views of all 12,000 members, nor mandatorily funded by same. Yet despite repeated and loud cries for a poll of the membership, the ExCom has adamantly refused to consider same.

  8. Inform the general membership when the Executive Director intends to take a medical leave for an indeterminate period of time (about six weeks, and especially during the height of the debate over CIR), rather than having to learn about it through a voicemail, and advise as to who will be filling in during that period. Last, don’t lie and say that this was a request for personal medical records; there was never such a request and yet the ExCom never acknowledges same (nor has ever published my alleged request for same).

If you were to look at the MC threads under AILA General that deal with the above topics, you would see that they total in the tens of thousands of view. And if you spent the time required to really study these issues, and read the strings from start to finish, you would see that the postings made by some of the ExCom members, especially Ms. Williams and Mr. Leopold, are non-responsive, self-contradicting, rude, and occasionally childish. It is understandable, however, because the ExCom’s bluff has been called, and they are acting like kids with their hands in the cookie jar attitude. They, and some of the ardent “AILA can do no wrong” supporters, have decided that since they cannot win on the facts, they will resort to ad hominem attacks on me (and my supporters), as well as trying to detract from substantive issues while complaining about the “tone” used on the MC.

The ExCom complaining about tone is the biggest injustice and lie of them all – and not just to me or Susan McFadden or anyone else who has dared to speak out in support of me – but to all of you, the members. Allow me to elaborate, and now you will learn about why I have been banned from the MC.

According to the ExCom, I was banned because I disclosed personal information about Ms. Andrea Chempinski, AILA’s webmaster. This absolute lie by the ExCom has been exposed for exactly what it is, their desire to keep me from becoming Treasurer. The only information disclosed was Ms. Chempinski’s highly self-publicized nickname of “Hoo”, something she went to great pains on the internet to exhibit, as you will soon see.

This all began because Ms. Chempinski is AILA’s webmaster (“Associate Director of Online Services”: “serves as the primary technical manager for AILA's web-based information services. Maintains public and private Web sites.” – From AILA’s website), and she runs a continuing thread called “InfoNet Top Ten”, where she tracks the number of hits on documents posted on AILA’s website. Although she posts the ranking, she did not post the number of hits themselves. I thus asked her to do so via this MC post:

“Can we please have some context to this? How about posting the number of hits after each item, so that we get an idea of the number of viewers. It would be nice to know who is viewing what. Let me rephrase; we already know Hoo knows, but we'd like to know too.

Sorry for the "who's on first" routine, but Andrea will understand.”

I also later posted:

“Extremely strange that my post disappeared. It wasn't me. As I said, thank you and I wouldn't have guessed the numbers would be so high for some of these. Also your photography is impressive.”

Nothing rude. Nothing which wasn’t easily and publicly available, due to the online publicity posted by Ms. Chempinski herself, and nothing insulting. Not even a mention of her multiple websites, nor the fact that “Hoo” is her nickname. In fact, a polite and genuine compliment to boot. But she apparently took offense

But that post soon disappeared. (Not before I saved it however, as I do with many of my posts, because I correctly don’t trust the AILA leadership.

And then the emails went flying.

[But first, here is a paragraph from one of Ms. Chempinski’s self-promoting websites, and note that she mentions what she does for AILA:

“What do Hoo's do? Well Hoo's can do lots of things, but currently I am a website and graphics designer. I own the design company ConceptFish which specializes in clean, classic design, so if you're looking for a designer, check it out. And in case you were wondering, yes you did read the previous paragraph correctly - I am an attorney by training. But I decided that there were enough lawyers out there and turned my website hobbies my career. (and yes I can tell you "back in the day" stories of websites that didn't even allow colored fonts or backgrounds!) Currently I am the webmaster for the American Immigration Lawyers Association during the day and a freelancer at night. Previously I spent four years managing the website for the law firm Cohen Milstein Hausfeld & Toll. I'm always looking for that "perfect job" so if you think you've got one to offer me, please check out my resume (Adobe Acrobat file). In addition to that I'm also a professional figure skating photographer. My work has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers, as well as used by skaters and organizations for promotional items. You can see my work at ScratchSpin.com”]” [Source: http://www.hooloovoo.com/hoo.html]

Document 1 (Feb. 15, 2013, email from David Leopold):

From: David Leopold [mailto:dleopold@immvisa.com]
Sent: Friday, February 15, 2013 4:09 PM
To: kenneth@rinzler.com
Cc: GEConstantine@Venable.com
Subject: AILA Message Board Posting

Dear Mr. Rinzler:

On February 6, William Stock sent you an email message explaining that a posting you had made to the Message Center Board was not appropriate for that forum because of the manner in which it disclosed personal details of an individual staff member. That message, which was sent on behalf of the AILA Executive Committee, asked that you refrain from such postings in the future. On February 14, notwithstanding Mr. Stock's earlier message, you again posted an item that disclosed the personal nickname of an AILA staff member. These unconsented personal disclosures are contrary to the spirit of the Message Center Board and to the letter of its terms of use, which clearly prohibit "offensive" posts. Please understand that any subsequent violation of the terms of use, through the making of additional offensive posts or some other action, will be grounds for suspending your Message Center Board privileges.

Very truly yours,

David W. Leopold
General Counsel, American Immigration Lawyers Association


Document 2 (Feb. 6, 2013, email from William Stock, plus email correspondence between Susan Quarles and me):

From: William A. Stock [mailto:WStock@klaskolaw.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2013 11:14 PM
To: kenneth@rinzler.com
Subject: FW: Postings to AILA Message Center

Ken:

On behalf of the ExCom, I am sending you this message to follow up on Susan's Quarles' email to you about why your messages on the "Infonet Top Ten - 2013" thread were deleted from the Message Center, and your reply to Susan. We are doing you the courtesy of replying in this format rather than publicly.

In your posts, your decision to use Andrea's personal nickname, and stating "Your photography is impressive" relating to a personal web page that Andrea maintains, may have been intended as a joke. In that case, we want you to understand that it was not taken as such. Clearly, we understand that Andrea’s nickname and skating photography are quite accessible on the Web through a Google search. Inserting the information from an AILA employee's personal web page in an unrelated professional forum, however, was understood in a different light than it might otherwise have been intended, given your past public vitriol towards members of the AILA staff and leadership, and your inappropriate public demands for personal medical information about AILA’s Executive Director. [The ExCom with their standard lie. – Ken R]

While you have a right to your opinions and, as a member of the Association, you are free to communicate with other members and seek to persuade them to your point of view, this most recent exchange crosses the line. Leaving aside your differences in opinion with you us about AILA governance, however, in this specific instance we want to be clear: While you may believe your message may seem is innocuous enough, in the context of your prior communications over an extended period of time, but it was is perceived by Andrea, the AILA staff, and ExCom that you had made a particular effort to obtain and post personal information about a member of the AILA staff that was completely unnecessary, and is both inappropriate and quite frankly disturbing in the context of your prior communications. [Again, implying that I had done something beyond the pale. – Ken R]

Your continued attacks on AILA staff and the work they do have colored how they perceive any communication from you. We want to be clear that your searching out and including personal details of individual AILA staff members in your message center postings crosses a line. Therefore, we ask that you refrain from such postings in the future.

William Stock

From: Kenneth Rinzler [mailto:kenneth@rinzler.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2013 7:36 PM
To: Susan Quarles
Subject: RE: Postings to AILA Message Center

Susan:

First of all, that was wit, plain and simple.

Second, paying someone a compliment about their professional commercial skills, which they make every effort online to sell, is not inappropriate. I can Google whomever the hell I want, and she is all over the web with her multiple websites and the fact that she works for AILA and has won employee awards multiple times. In fact, she brags about it on everything from LinkedIn to you name it. So you are jumping on the wrong person. And last time I checked, AILA does not own the web.

AILA’s censorship efforts are getting ridiculous, as members are pointing out more and more.

Last, this continuing shunning where you people only answer emails when it suits you is simply poor form. Just once you might want to contact me first when you perceive a problem, instead of doing it your way. It seems to me that AILA likes to escalate things.

But you continue to do what you think is right, and I shall do the same.

http://www.linkedin.com/in/chempinski

http://www.andreachempinski.com/

http://www.hooloovoo.com/dolenz/gallery.html

http://www.scratchspin.com/

Yours,
Kenneth Rinzler

From: Susan Quarles [mailto:SQuarles@aila.org]
Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2013 7:21 PM
To: kenneth@rinzler.com
Subject: Postings to AILA Message Center

Ken – I instructed Andrea to delete two of your postings from today. You have been given wide latitude in posting highly critical comments about AILA, its leadership, Crystal and myself, but I have to draw the line at including comments to and about a staff person that has nothing to do with their job at AILA. Your post “Let me rephrase; we already know Hoo knows, but we'd like to know too. Sorry for the "who's on first" routine, but Andrea will understand.” that you posted at 2:50am today and then the one this evening - “Thank you. I would never have guessed that much for many of them. And your photography is impressive.” are simply inappropriate. Googling AILA staff to find out information totally unrelated to their job and then using it in a public forum, regardless of your intention, are over the line.
Susan Quarles
Deputy Executive Director

Document 3 (Feb. 6, 2013, reply to William Stock’s email):

From: Kenneth Rinzler [mailto:kenneth@rinzler.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2013 1:55 AM
To: 'William A. Stock'
Subject: RE: Postings to AILA Message Center

Dear Bill:

On February 1 I sent you and the other members of the ExCom an email asking for three things: 1) an update on the BOG meeting and agenda, 2) some sort of announcement as to the prolonged absence of AILA’s Executive Director, and 3) an effort by the ExCom to reach out and start having a fruitful interaction with the membership. Not one of you bothered to respond.

On February 2 colleague Susan McFadden sent the ExCom a follow-up email, reiterating my principal request and asking for a response. Again, the ExCom did not bother with the courtesy of a reply.

Today, however, in keeping with the ExCom’s practice of selective communication and the selective release of information, you send me your obnoxious email, with the strange comment that you are giving me the “courtesy of replying [privately] rather than publicly.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, whether to take it as a veiled threat or simply another example of the ExCom acting like a dictator in the bunker who doesn’t realize his government is about to fall.

Upon receiving Susan’s email I forwarded our exchange to colleagues:

“look at the websites I found in about 30 seconds’ worth of effort (including where she’s “looking for that perfect job”, which contains the second attachment), consider my attempt at wit and my genuine (she is damn good) compliment of Andrea’s photography skills which she commercially markets (possibly to a certain extent on AILA time, but that’s not an issue for me) and Susan’s “You have been given wide latitude in posting highly critical comments about AILA, its leadership, Crystal and myself…” as if I were being scolded by my kindergarten teacher, and form your own opinion, especially as regards AILA’s increasing effort to censor what the members say.

I’m starting to feel like Ralph Nader when General Motors had him followed for blowing the whistle on their unsafe cars. I point out all these serious problems with AILA and this is how the Deputy Executive Director (the chief operating officer according to the AILA website) responds? God forbid somebody would have picked up the phone and called me first, instead of waiting for me to discover my posts were being deleted and then to get this email. When did AILA buy the world wide web and Google for their exclusive use? Could someone please send me that press release, because I never got it? And if paying someone a sincere compliment about a skill they obviously WANT people to know about, or if using some innocuous word-play offends AILA’s sensibilities, well that’s just too damn bad.”

[And by the way, Bill, in case you and the rest of the ExCom are so isolated in your leadership tower that you didn’t even grasp the reference to “Who’s on first?”, it refers to a very famous skit by Abbott and Costello. Perhaps if you watch this YouTube video (with over 9 million hits) it will enlighten you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sShMA85pv8M.
(In case you’re pressed for time due to your censorship duties, the fun part starts at about the one minute mark.)]

Upon receipt of my email, one colleague immediately responded to me with the following: “Geez, if Googling people is "going over the line," then we need to dismantle the internet right away. Don't we all Google people, places, and things? Isn't that what it's for? And you are correct: if she didn't want to be found on the internet, she certainly shouldn't have created so many places to be found.” Of course I couldn’t agree more.

As I’ve said, the compliment was sincere and it wasn’t improper. It was neither rude, sexually oriented, nor otherwise inappropriate. And if it was taken otherwise, that is not my fault nor do I feel guilty about it. And while your comment about my “past public vitriol” towards AILA is correct, my attitude towards AILA is based upon the opaque and hypocritical and damaging way you and the other members of the ExCom run AILA. There, too, I make no apologies.

I do, however, take great issue with your comment about my “inappropriate public demands for personal medical information about AILA’s Executive Director”. As you well know, I have not asked for private medical information; what I have asked for – as have many members of the association – is an official public announcement regarding the extended leave of its Executive Director, rather than relying upon a voicemail. And, by the way, since you seem to be so fond of criticizing my use of Google, I did find this newspaper article from when AILA appointed Crystal as its Executive Director back in October 2009:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/oct/13/immigrants-top-advocate/?page=all

The article not only mentions the fact that Crystal and then President Bernie Wolfsdorf share the same October 7 birthday, but goes on to say that Crystal is a “five year survivor of breast cancer.” Now it’s possible that the article was completely wrong on one or both of those interesting points, and it’s possible it was correct because the reporter was a psychic, but the rational inference is that those two pieces of information were accurate and that such personal health information was probably provided to the reporter by the principal involved because it served her purpose to do so. In effect, it was likely the selective disclosure of personal information by Crystal Williams herself, not some lucky coincidence by the reporter.

Now I don’t know if it’s true or not, and I don’t really care other than that like all decent people, I don’t wish cancer on anyone. But I mention this because it is floating around on the web from what appears to be a credible source, and coupled with AILA’s continued silence on her absence – which was only discovered inadvertently through a voicemail – despite repeated requests by members and the fact that normally a professional organization announces the extended absence of its high-profile chief executive, it just perpetuates AILA’s practice of only selectively releasing partial information, and only when under duress. This practice didn’t benefit Apple and Steve Jobs, it isn’t working for Venezuela and Hugo Chavez, and it’s not working for AILA and its members.

So stop trying to make me into an evil and/or deranged person. It is not professional and frankly makes it seem like the leadership will do anything to cover up their sins, of which I have already documented a goodly number.

Your opinion that I have “crossed a line” is just that, an opinion, and I think an ill-informed one. I did not make a ”particular effort” to obtain information about Andrea; it took but a few minutes and I did it because I was curious about why AILA was censoring Matt Udall’s comments on AILA’s Facebook page, so I did my research like I always do. Getting AILA tax’s returns and forcing AILA to post them and to own up to the insider loans, now that was a “particular effort.” Writing letter after letter and post after post for hour after hour in an attempt to force AILA to become more transparent; that, too, is a particular effort. But finding Andrea’s too numerous to count websites, making a joke using publicly available information and paying a sincere compliment? That was no effort at all.

So I think it doesn’t behoove the image of Crystal Williams or AILA for her to falsely accuse me of lying on the Message Center, and it doesn’t do you or AILA any justice to send an email which implies that my behavior is disturbing. But you know what, Bill? It’s a free country, and as I said to Susan, you continue to do what you think is right and I shall do the same.

Yours,
Kenneth Rinzler


As I have stated many times, I – and others have agreed – find the MC rules to be overly broad, never properly adopted, and enforced selectively. That being said, unless one lives in a cave it is simply common knowledge that if you post something on the Internet about yourself, you have no expectation of privacy. As if there haven’t been enough political scandals to demonstrate this ad nauseum, this is especially true for a person who prides herself on being a lawyer and a tech-savvy individual. For the ExCom to ban me over this is ludicrous, but it gets even better.

As I have also stated in the past,

“I think Mr. Leopold is incredibly small minded to put his name to a letter when he is subject to such an apparent conflict of interest: for as an ExCom member himself for many years now, as well as a Past President whose tenure encompassed many of the things I have exposed, for him to issue such a pompous and ill-conceived threat as General Counsel is yet but another example of the poor decision-making and laughable standards which governs AILA and its leadership. Both intelligence and common sense dictated for him to counsel the rest of the ExCom that trying to curtail my rights as a member simply because I have used publicly available information was neither wise nor helpful to an organization which is losing its credibility drip by drip, day by day. And to also drive home the point of the hypocritical “standards” being cited by Mr. Leopold, here is arguably what is his most famous MC post, which like all of his offensive posts was directed towards yours truly, and which generated a significant number of calls for him to stop being offensive. The emphasis is supplied in bold, just in case Mr. Leopold’s memory is faulty, and I’d be happy to provide the MC screen shots which contain his posts:

“Ken, as an outsider, in a small office, in a small chapter, who also happens to be AILA's immediate past president, I can tell you your assumptions about AILA politics are flat out wrong. AILA leadership is open to anyone who is willing to work hard for his or her fellow members. But more fundamentally, your statements about AILA's positions, and your consistent use of the ugly language of the fringe restrictionists, lead me to believe that perhaps it is not the AILA's advocacy you disdain, it is AILA's positions. That is your right, and it is your right as a member to express your point of view as forcefully and completely as you wish. But please don't make the unfounded assumption that you represent the majority of your peers. To the contrary, the membership is comprised of a diverse group who are passionate about what they do and the clients they represent.
Indeed, AILA's advocacy positions are hotly debated by the Board of Governors before they are voted on. They reflect the opinion of an overwhelming majority of AILA's members. You are certainly entitled to be as angry as you wish, but your above reference to "pointless and ineffective activities" more accurately describes the antics of a serial complainer who refuses to offer a positive contribution than those who direct their energy toward making AILA the best it can be.

To close on why I feel the fix is in…

In 1975, Congress created the Federal Election Commission to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections. It is composed of six members, who are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. By law, no more than three Commissioners can be members of the same political party, and at least four votes are required for any official Commission action. The structure was created to encourage nonpartisan decisions.

If only AILA oversaw its elections the same way, but it doesn’t. AILA elections are controlled by the ExCom, and the fix is in.

As if the above improprieties weren’t bad enough, however, we have the special nature of this year’s election. This year, one candidate and one candidate only is prevented from competing on an even playing field due to his being banned from the Message Center under a pretext. This order was issued by the ExCom, AILA’s equivalent of the FEC, the people responsible to ensure a free and fair election is carried out. In the interest of brevity, let’s look at just five – a majority -- of these AILA “FEC Commissioners”.

First Vice President Leslie Holman. This is the person who on February 21, 2013, sent an email to the entire Rome District Chapter (RDC) in which she falsely accused me of “taunting” Andrea Chempinski, AILA’s webmaster, for using her self-promoted nickname:

“What you said is exactly 100% the case. You can't read the posts since the information about her was removed, but he was taunting her. We never asked him to stop posting about us or even Crystal's medical leave (which I think that he did so was gross). Only a staff member who was just doing her job.”

When Leslie was contacted by Susan McFadden to let Leslie know that she (Leslie) had sent the above email to the entire RDC rather than the single recipient she had obviously meant to send it to, Leslie replied to Susan as follows (and keep in mind that Leslie was instrumental in having Susan also banned from the MC just a few days later):

“Please know that I am very sorry. The last thing I ever wanted to do was to make things worse. I really mean that. More than anything I don't want people hurt. Anyone. It is not my nature. I promise you that.”

A classic case of where one’s actions don’t match the words.

In short: Leslie Holman cannot be impartial in this election and should have played no role in it after her vote to censor the MC. By banning Susan and me from the MC, Leslie ensured that no independent candidate will be heard in the run-up to June’s election, thereby continuing AILA’s ‘deck-stacking’ policy.

General Counsel David Leopold. This is the person who on March 3, 2013, went on the MC and alleged that Susan McFadden and I had engaged in what could only be viewed as criminal behavior towards Ms. Chempinski:

“To allow members of our staff, particularly those whose positions do not make them public figures, to be subjected to unwanted and irrelevant public exploration of their private lives is to severely damage our ability to recruit and retain top quality personnel. We all live our lives online these days. That does not mean that that information should be [obtained] by people who don't know us and posted gratuitously to others for no legitimate institutional reason.”

In addition, he has already demonstrated an arguable conflict of interest in that he gives legal advice to the ExCom on matters in which as an ExCom member he was personally involved. This deprives AILA of what it needs: advice from an attorney who, with no need to protect himself, demonstrably has only the association’s interests in mind.

As is the case with Leslie Holman, David Leopold cannot be impartial in this election and should have played no role in it after their vote to censor the MC. By banning Susan and me from the MC, Leslie and David ensured that no independent candidate will be heard in the run-up to June’s election, thereby continuing AILA’s ‘deck-stacking’ policy.

Executive Director Crystal Williams. Hard to know where to begin with her. From the multiple times she has posted on the MC that I make things up (to put it charitably), to her continual attempts to withhold information that the membership has a right to have, to doing her utmost to avoid the ever-increasing desire for a poll of the membership, to the fact that she planned a six week medical leave which was only officially announced to the membership right before it began and only after it was first accidentally discovered via her voicemail, to her fervent support of Ms. Chempinski in this charade, Ms. Williams has shown – in the words of that famous Groucho Marx ditty – that if I’m for it, “she’s against it”.

As is the case with Leslie Holman and David Leopold, Crystal Williams cannot be impartial in this election and should have played no role in it after their vote to censor the MC. By banning Susan and me from the MC, Leslie, David and Crystal ensured that no independent candidate will be heard in the run-up to June’s election, thereby continuing AILA’s ‘deck-stacking’ policy.

Secretary Annaluisa Padilla, my opponent in this election. As a member of the ExCom, she was also given the opportunity to vote on my being banned from the MC. As that is an obvious conflict of interest she should have recused herself from any deliberations and vote having to do with this issue, but there is no indication that she did. But of course why would she, as she procured her nomination under questionable circumstances from the very ExCom she now belongs to.

By allowing her name to be put forward for the position of Treasurer under these circumstances, Ms. Padilla has accepted an unfair advantage in this campaign. If she has any integrity she should be the very first one to call for the reinstatement of all of the membership rights of Susan McFadden and myself so that a fair campaign can be undertaken by all.

Treasurer William Stock. This is the person who, on February 5, 2013, sent me an email in which he calls my past criticism of AILA “public vitriol” (fair comment) but then goes on to lie and state that I demanded “personal medical information” about [Crystal Williams]:

“Inserting the information from an AILA employee's personal web page in an unrelated professional forum, however, was understood in a different light than it might otherwise have been intended, given your past public vitriol towards members of the AILA staff and leadership, and your inappropriate public demands for personal medical information about AILA’s Executive Director.”

As is the case with Leslie Holman, David Leopold and Crystal Williams, William Stock cannot be impartial in this election and should have played no role in it after their vote to censor the MC. By banning Susan and me from the MC, Leslie, David, Crystal, Annaluisa and William ensured that no independent candidate will be heard in the run-up to June’s election, thereby continuing AILA’s ‘deck-stacking’ policy.

The above shows how a majority of the nine members of the ExCom have such a clear bias against me, to the point that they not only have banned me from the MC but have also banned Susan McFadden, who dared to speak out in my support, that it is now impossible for me to communicate effectively with the membership and to run a fair campaign. I can point out the biases of some of the other ExCom members as well, but there’s no need. The ExCom will say and do anything to win. The fix is in, and the general membership has bought into it for too long. It’s time to say that we are not going to stand for this treatment anymore. The best way to do that is to vote for me.


Here is my official 100 word (auto)biographical statement:

“Raised by a single public high school ESL teacher mom in NJ, Ken Rinzler is a Georgetown and Seton Hall Law graduate who has worked as everything from a stablehand to a county prosecutor’s law clerk to a staffer for a Democratic Congressman on Capitol Hill for ten years before becoming a solo practitioner. Having been to 40 countries and counting many State Department employees as his friends, he has real life knowledge of how the Federal Government operates and the ineffectiveness of AILA within same. Ken has always believed in transparency and elections with meaningful choices on the ballot.”

And here is my first campaign statement, which was posted on the MC by a colleague but which was probably not seen by most of you:

Rinzler for Treasurer Campaign Statement #1
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 General Counsel to rule on the ethics of ExCom member services 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.

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.


If you have read this far, thank you.
I ask for your vote, but whether you give it or not, I hope that you will add your voice to those who feel that AILA needs to be made a more transparent and responsive organization. The national leadership of AILA has no regard for the members; it simply sees you as a cash cow and a means to accomplish its advocacy ends. Whether they continue to govern this organization of lawyers as their personal fiefdom, punishing those who dare to speak out, is up to you.
I have given it my best shot. And I will continue to sleep well at night, knowing that I have created a lasting record of the hypocrisy that has come to define AILA.


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.