LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The National Limousine Association faces a decision on Monday as old as democracy itself: How to allocate votes and by what standard.
A proposed bylaw change being put before the NLA general membership Monday, March 16 at 11 a.m. would assign only one vote per owner member, no matter how many companies that member owns and registers as additional NLA members.
Under current rules, an owner/company that owns multiple businesses or incorporated entities, either in a local region or spread across separate cities, can buy a NLA membership for each business. Each member business then counts as one vote.
The proposed bylaw change stems from a recent internal debate at the NLA related to the 2015 board of director elections in which one NLA board director exercised a block of 17 votes. Sixteen other NLA members commanded two to four votes each based on the number of member businesses they own.
Altogether, the 17 members collectively exercised “mini-blocs” totaling 53 votes. LCT is not naming the director who commanded the 17 votes or the 16 other NLA members with more than one vote because their actions were proper and legal based on current NLA bylaws.
NLA board director Dawson Rutter, owner of Boston-based Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation, e-mailed a letter to the NLA’s 2,000 plus members on March 5 urging them to vote YES on the proposed bylaw change. He opposes the current voting standards.
“If a cartel of large companies registered all of their operations as separate members of the NLA, they could control the outcome of board elections and we would not have a fair election process for the NLA Board of Directors,” Rutter wrote in the e-mail. “So while 1,983 of us all have one vote, there is the potential that 17 of our members or more could swing an election unfairly. The bylaw amendment, if approved, will disallow this practice.”
In an interview with LCT, Rutter emphasized that the casting of vote blocs in the last election was technically legal and legitimate according to current NLA rules and practices, but in his view, not ethical. “It didn’t appear to affect the outcomes of individual board elections,” he said.
But current bylaws can create the perception of coercion and undue influence on elections, he added. “I thought it was unethical. Why should 17 people control more votes than the other members? Why should anyone have the capability of throwing an election?”
One possible consequence if the bylaw passes is a slight reduction in revenue from membership dues, since those members now paying for multiple company memberships would likely opt to pay just for one. The NLA's 18 elected board of director positions consist of 14-geographic district-based seats and four at-large seats. As a result, some NLA members with company-owned operations in more than one district choose to pay for additional memberships so they can vote for candidates in each district.
That raises key questions for voters to consider: If an NLA member runs multiple businesses in multiple NLA districts, and pays membership dues for each, is that member entitled to representation in each district? But if those businesses are concentrated in one district, could one member potentially use multiple votes to swing or tilt an election outcome in that district?
Bylaw Ballot Procedures
A majority of NLA Board of Directors approved putting the proposed bylaw change before a general membership vote.
The bylaw “card-check” vote will be held Monday at 11 a.m. in Ballroom E of the Venetian Palazzo Resort Hotel Casinos conference enter, a few hours before the official start of the International LCT Show.
The meeting will be open to all NLA members in good standing. Only members who have paid their 2015 dues are eligible to vote. Voters and non-voting members must register and verify their identities before entering the ballroom. Registration tables will be set up in alphabetical order based on company name.
Each voter will receive a business card-sized ballot with three options: YES, NO, ABSTAIN. Employees of voting member companies and non-voter members who want to attend the meeting may receive a non-voting “green card” for admittance.
The meeting must have a quorum of 196 voters, or 10% of the approximate 1,960 eligible NLA voter members. As of today, the NLA has about 2,150 members total.
“My hope is we will be able to take more issues to the membership to have them vote instead of deciding them in the boardroom,” Rutter said. “I’m hoping we will involve the membership more in what the board is doing and in the operations of the NLA.”