By Greg Peele, LPF Director At-Large 3
Hi all, time to discuss and review party business for the LPF Executive Committee on Sunday, May 20, 2018.
The opinions presented here are my own and do not represent the Libertarian Party of Orange County nor the Libertarian Party of Florida.
Chair's Report Motions
Appoint Brandon Kneeld as Region 8 Representative - Aye / Passed
Analysis: This motion appoints to fill the vacancy created by Russ Wood's resignation. Mr. Kneeld is an elected City Commissioner in Davenport, Polk County, and was last month appointed to the Candidate Committee. I have no objection to this appointment and am glad to see new faces willing to step up and go all in.
Review: No significant discussion or controversy, Mr. Kneeld is an obvious choice and I am glad he is willing to take this on.
Motion 560 - Aye / Passed
Motion to Accept Revised Minutes of the 2018 LPF Annual Business Meeting
Mover: Suzanne Gilmore
Text: I move to accept revised Minutes of the 2018 LPF Annual Business Meeting as attached herein. The revised minutes will replace the version accepted at the LPF EC Meeting of April 15, 2018.
Analysis: This appears to be a minor correction to properly place the (lack of) report from the defunct Conduct Committee. I have read the entirety of the amended minutes and have not seen any reason to object to this amendment.
Review: No discussion.
Motion 561 - Nay / Failed
Motion to contribute to Riquet Caballero gubernational campaign
Mover: Char-lez Braden
Text: I move that the LPF contribute $5,000 to Riquet Caballero's gubernatorial Campaign.
Analysis: This motion is materially identical to the previous motion from Representative Braden to contribute $5,000 to Randy Wiseman's gubernatorial campaign. As such, all of my concerns and objections from that motion still apply - please refer to Director's Cut - April 15, 2018 LPF EC Meeting for the details. Furthermore, it is my understanding that not only was Mr. Caballero not consulted, he does not want the funds and likely would decline them if offered due to the perception of favoritism of his campaign if they were awarded. As such I believe we should vote this down with minimal discussion to avoid wasting unnecessary time on this.
Review: EC members spoke on both sides of this that the same vote should be cast as the one for Mr. Wiseman since the facts and principles were the same. However, one difference is that the candidate, Mr. Caballero, joined the call and stated he did not want or need the money - at least not until he was formally the party's nominee - and did not want the perception of favoritism. That did change one previous aye vote to nay on the grounds that it was silly to award a candidate money he didn't want.
Motion 562 - Aye / Passed
Motion To Adopt Third Party Live Call Answering Service
Mover: Steven Nekhaila
Text: The Libertarian Party of Florida Communications Committee shall be directed to adopt an official third party live call answering service to answer, record and route calls made to the Libertarian Party of Florida. The Communications Committee shall post and maintain the phone number on the official website. The Communications Committee shall be granted a budget of up to $1,000 for six months of third party live call answering services. At the regularly scheduled LPF EC meeting before the end of six months from the beginning of service, the Communications Committee shall present a report to the Executive Committee to report the successes, opportunities, opinions and suggestions regarding the service and may ask for an extension to continue the service.
Analysis: I have too many questions about the usefulness, structure, and return on investment on this proposal to support it at this time as presented.
Representatives Nekhaila and Ramsey responded to many of my original concerns to provide some more concrete numbers and justification for this pilot program. I have left up but struck out my original concerns for the record. I am currently undecided but leaning in favor of the motion depending on how discussion goes, at least as a pilot program to determine its effective and reevaluate.
I will note that normally I'd prefer to see a different workflow: the Communications Committee identifies a need, conducts a trade study to identify 3-5 vendors and get quotes, and then come to the EC with a proposal basically saying "We need X, vendor A can do XYZ for W cost, do we have financial authorization to proceed?"
Let's start with the area of total agreement: I do agree that the party needs a dedicated phone number to use on our contact info, both for government registration purposes and the possibility of member contact. We should not be using personal numbers for these use cases either.
I expect a basic automated system handling a dedicated phone line to cost less than $50 per month (mine for my business costs $14 per month, albeit discounted by being bundled with other services) resulting in voice mails left for the Communications Committee to check on a regular basis. I do not expect we would need a toll-free number (and the utility of a gimmick number is almost nothing) in 2018 due to the prevalence of free long distance and limited use of voice calls for contact vs. email and the website.
I am deeply skeptical of the utility of a live answering service unless two things can be shown: there is sufficient volume of calls to warrant the effort, and a live answering service would perform better on a specific set of metrics that we care about. Representative Ramsey showed me some literature research that automated systems result in losing about 80% of calls vs. a live call center. That IS a fairly significant metric and I can see the value of not losing these calls. Representative Nekhaila explained that these contracts typically are operating on a per-call or per-minute basis and the price will scale based on call volume, so it will still be effective for low or high call volumes and will scale accordingly.
Representative Nekhaila provided data that the service contract he had in mind for this was to process about 40-55 calls per month for about $100 per month, with the Communications Committee developing and providing the call scripts to the call center. The service would be on a monthly subscription and would not encumber the party into a long-term contract, and the EC would be able to terminate the pilot program prior to the six months if appropriate. Call centers should ideally have abilities to deal with spammers and other abusive behavior, and at any rate such abuse probably is criminally actionable. If this is approved, I would like to see the Communications Committee do a survey of at least 3-5 options for the service and either pick the lowest cost or write a justification for why they did not, rather than just moving forward with the first service identified. That sort of thing is a good idea for any procurement.
Without these metrics being identified and evaluated, I cannot support this allocation. $1,000 for six months, in particular, seems high for me - I would assume most call centers would actually contract by hourly or per-minute rates, and this would work out (roughly estimating) to 16-32 hours of calls in six months depending on the negotiated rate, minus any fixed expenses. If we're doing a pilot program, I can see some merit in that, but it should be a far more limited rollout based on an actual contract we can execute.
Speaking of which, the other condition for me to support this would be to see the actual contract with the actual call center being selected. All contracts are legally binding documents and I would like to see what the LPF is being held liable for. Among other things, a per-minute billing may hold us liable for significant expenses if saboteurs decided to use automated systems or otherwise call to harass and use billable minutes, I would like to make sure the contract clearly states we are NOT financially liable in a situation like this. Call center operators may also receive information that should be covered by our NDA, so that would need to be clearly stated and enforced. Live callers also would not be trained to handle inquiries on Libertarian philosophy or policy and would effectively have an equivalent function to an automated answering service handling procedural and structural inquiries.
Conversely, I also think that having LPF volunteers as a distributed call bank would not make sense either, since it's too hard to guarantee reliability, only the Chair is authorized to officially speak on party policy and philosophy without prior EC authorization, and we still would need to ensure data security and integrity.
Unless these concerns are substantively addressed, I plan to vote no. If the Communications Committee does feel this is a necessary action for the party, I suggest identifying the metrics they believe this proposal will enhance, provide estimates showing the potential return on investment, and obtaining a proposed contract - even if just notional - that shows what the party is committing itself to, and bring that to a future EC meeting. In the interim, I would welcome an alternative proposal to set up a baseline phone number with automated voice mail.
Review: This motion inspired significant debate. Representatives Nekhaila and Ramsey brought up the points regarding the limited risk, potential benefit, and data metrics justifying a live service. Treasurer Coulter and new Representative Kneeld brought up legitimate concerns about the process and lack of specificity of the motion, noting they'd prefer to vote on a final well-prepared service quote from the Communications Committee and not just a non-specific budget authorization, which I felt was a valid point. I feel that both sides made good points and I could justify either an aye and a nay vote on this one. I ended up voting aye after thinking about a discussion I had with Representative Folsom about the opportunity cost of inaction, whereas the risk and liability of this motion is limited. The Communications Chair stated that he understood the concerns of those who voted nay and would work to ensure that the vendor selection process and final result will address those concerns.
Proposed Motion - Not Necessary
Directed Donation of $3,250 for Operation First Step
Text: I, Chairman Miralles, move to allocate $3,250.00 to the Candidate Committee to fund all operations linked with Operation: First Step.
Analysis: It may not even be necessary for the EC to vote on this. It appears, based on feedback from Representative Gilmore and supported by some additional research on FEC regulations from Representative Morrell, that the Chair may have the authority to accept directed contributions and then deploy them in accordance with the donor's wishes, so long as it's properly documented. The two donors funding this already contribute to the LPF general fund regularly. I see this more as the LPF playing matchmaker between two large donors and a large number of candidates that we already have a reason to track - basically facilitating contributions to candidates, rather than a party activity in of itself. I have no reason to object, and I would also be fine with accepting Representative Gilmore's advice that the Chair already has the authority to do this on his own.
Review: The EC agreed that no vote was necessary on this and that Chair Miralles could proceed on his own authority.