The Appraisal Institute Sham Election

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One of the most unethical actions against AI membership is about to take place (for a third time), and the uproar is just beginning. I’ve had many appraisers reach out to me over the past week, conveying how upset they were. I’m not even affiliated with the Appraisal Institute, and I’m furious because it brings down the entire industry in the eyes of others.

Back in 2016, I unleashed a flurry of commentary criticizing the Appraisal Institute executives who had a plan to take all chapter funds for no justifiable reason. The membership reacted by calling leadership to task, which is a challenging, scary thing when they are threatened by leadership and might lose their designations, which could impact their livelihood.

Now we are facing something much darker and maybe the final downfall of the Appraisal Industry as an organization.

Here is what someone said about this election sham:

“Why not next year instead of this year, why are you doing this when you know that in the middle of a pandemic and that it will tear the Institute apart from the top?”

A well-regarded and nationally-known appraiser and Appraisal Institute member, Craig Steinley, won the backing of the national nominating committee, and his name was submitted publicly because confirmation is essentially a rubber stamp. Craig was thought to be the best choice this year by the national nominating committee. The confirmation is supposed to take place in the first week of August (more details later on).

Here is a rough overview of how the nominating process works:

  • The ten regional areas of the Appraisal Institute provide recommendations of individuals that wish to be considered for the national chain of command, beginning with the Second Vice President, the Vice President, and then President, who serves one term. It is the track to become the national President. The national nominating committee vets the recommendations that are submitted by the membership and announce their recommendation, followed by a board confirmation.

Here is how the sham ‘petition process’ bylaw works:

The key to the petition process is to disregard the nominating committee recommendation. This was inspired by at least four former presidents more than a decade ago: there are only 6 national board member votes needed to override the nominating committee recommendation. With those 6 votes, Amorin, the current CEO, can control the future presidents and officers indefinitely. Doesn’t that seem to be against the interest of the membership? The Board of Directors needs to close this unethical loophole if there is any hope of the Appraisal Institute rising again to claw back the greatness it once possessed.

By the way, the current Appraisal Institute national Board of Directors is comprised of 27 members, with 23 men but only 4 women. Twenty of the board members are the chair and vice-chairs of the ten AI regions. Only 6 board members are needed to vote in favor of the petition to insert a new Amorin lackey to enable lavish expense accounts and travel as I’ve previously written about, funded by hard-working appraiser members who have invested a considerable amount of time and money for their Appraisal Institute designations.

First Time Petition Process – Created and Implemented

Now there is uncertainty on Craig’s nomination because the petition process that was created back more than a decade ago when a female from Wyoming was publicly nominated like Craig and was replaced by a board choice through the petition maneuver, ignoring the nominating committee results.

Leslie Sellers was on the board then and was quite upset that he did not get the nomination but was able to vote for himself using this maneuver. Industry feedback suggests that AI Presidents from 2007 to 2010 seem to have been behind the petition process, inserting it in the bylaws to get Sellers into the ladder to ascend to the presidency two years later. I’d invite any of these former presidents, to refute this with credible, verifiable evidence to counter my own experiences and what many members have told me over the years.

Then 2010 president Leslie Sellers was the reason I disassociated with the Appraisal Institute in 2010 after he withdrew AI from the Appraisal Foundation for no stated reason that made sense. My tipping point was that he had posted a video saying to the effect that he was thrilled about the future opportunities that awaited the organization. Well, a subsequent 30% drop in membership, over the next decade, a steeper decline than licensed/certified appraisers in the national registry, and a collapse in credibility in Washington seems to refute that.

Second Time Petition Process – Was Implemented

Jim Amorin became the first two-time President in the Appraisal Institute’s history using the petition process election maneuver to bypass the nominating committee’s decision. There were other very worthy candidates who were not considered at all. He went on to somehow obtain his current CEO position without a real effort by the organization to look outside when the former CEO essentially left in the middle of the night – I knew one highly qualified CEO applicant that wasn’t seriously interviewed – when the Appraisal Institute was bleeding relevance and needed to bring in new blood.

Third Time Petition Process – Being Implemented

Craig Steinley earned the backing of the national nominating committee and his name was submitted publicly because confirmation is essentially a rubber stamp. Craig was thought to be the best choice this year by the national nominating committee.

AI CEO Jim Amorin ($450K/year) disagreed and used the petition process to make Michael Tankersley the Second Vice President and doesn’t have to give a reason. Mark Linne stepped away from being considered. In other words, the membership nomination process that is supposed to be separate from the executives running the organization is wildly compromised. I am not critical of Michael Tankersley as an appraiser because I know nothing other than his credentials, but I am certainly disappointed that someone with outstanding professional credentials would be willing to circumvent the membership-driven process for personal advancement.

The following text is the email that was sent by National to members about the election. Notice how they do not explain that the petition process occurred and how the TWO candidates came about? Shameful.

Greetings:

On August 6-7, 2020, the national Board of Directors will elect the 2021 Vice President of the Appraisal Institute from two nominees, Craig Steinley and Michael Tankersley. You submitted a communication to the National Nominating Committee regarding one or both of those nominees. The purpose of this email is to ask whether you would like us to provide a copy of your communication to the Board of Directors for consideration. The nominees, even though they serve on the Board, will not receive a copy of the communication if you choose to release it to the Board. Please respond to aielection@appraisalinstitute.org letting us know of your wishes by July 13, 2020.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Jeffrey E. Liskar, Esquire
General Counsel
Appraisal Institute

To recap this election petition process sham:

The national membership submits candidates to their regional heads for the three-year path to the presidency of the Appraisal Institute. The national nominating committee, which is supposed to be separate from the operations executives for ethics concerns, vets the nominations and selects the one they feel is best qualified and then announces the choice to the public. The petition process created and inserted by former AI presidents over a decade ago subverts the word of the membership by only requiring 6 board votes and can include board members who can vote for themself, to what can only be viewed as self-dealing, violating the separation between operations and annual appraisal executives as well as shaming nominated executives – the best and brightest the membership has to offer – for their own self-dealing.

This is the problem with the current AI leadership and something I have been writing about since 2016: The national leadership is not thinking about their members, and they need to be, or the organization will die faster than it already is. I hope this is a wake-up call to current board members to do something about this internal corruption.

I want nothing less than for the Appraisal Institute to return to its former glory or get out of the way to stop damaging the livelihoods of its members and the industry’s reputation.

How to do something about this

If you want to do something about that, please reach out to the regional heads who are also board members to voice your dissatisfaction and be heard. Either let your voice be heard about this sham election or agree to let this mark the end of what was the gold standard in property valuation organizations before the pivot circa 2007.

Since I am not a member I don’t have access to the ten regional chair contact info to voice your complaints but you can see them on the Board of Directors landing page. There truly are a lot of good people on this board and they need to hear your voice and stop this corruption of the election process.

Incidentally, here is the letter that went out to the Board of Directors. Note that 492 signed the letter, 392 AI people, 6 of the 10 NNC members, and Mark Linné (3rd Candidate).

Letter to AI BoD on June 2020

When the Board of Directors convenes in August they need to:

  • Discuss the current sham petition process and should either remove it from the bylaws altogether or modify it by raising the petition process requirement from 6 votes to a supermajority (2/3) of the Board of Directors. A simple 50% vote requirement to invoke the petition process would under-represent and undermine the efforts of the 11-person nominating committee who work hard to vet the candidates.
  • Discuss the transparency of the petition process: Why do the board votes on the petition process get to be concealed? Given the self-dealing that has occurred three times due to the lack of transparency, the votes made for the petition process need to be 100% transparent to convey credibility to the membership that is absolutely required.
  • Discuss the potential damage to the candidate’s reputation: The process of leaving a publicly announced and thoroughly vetted nominee to twist in the wind while this petitioning process is invoked is completely unethical and unprofessional. Why would a professional organization allow something like this to happen to its own members when it can damage and humiliate a candidate who is the best the organization has to offer? It is unconscionable to me that the organization has allowed the petition process to exist without significant protections to the determinations of the nominating committee and without ANY protections to the selected candidate? How will the organization be able to attract standout candidates in the future instead of self-serving political hacks who don’t care about the membership?
Jonathan Miller
Latest posts by Jonathan Miller (see all)
Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller is President and CEO of Miller Samuel Inc., a real estate appraisal and consulting firm he co-founded in 1986. He is a state-certified real estate appraiser in New York and Connecticut, performing court testimony as an expert witness in various local, state and federal courts.

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6 Responses

  1. I’m not a member of the AI, nor have I been a Candidate since state licensing came into effect. I have good friends that are members. One is a former Board Member with a fantastic national reputation among his peers. I met him when I first went to work for IRS over a decade ago. We still maintain bi-weekly or monthly contact.

    At times the American Guild of Appraisers finds common cause with the AI, and at other times we have opposed specific positions they have taken (CA-AB 624 and CA SB 70). I was an invited participant to the Southern California Chapters Governmental Affairs Committee last September or November and was well treated.

    AI is not perfect and in the grand scheme of things they are not the only game in town. I can certainly understand why they separated from The Appraisal Foundation.

    TAF sought to (& ultimately did) go into direct competition with the AIs historical educational role, using their ‘clout’ as Congress’ appointed “Keepers of the Appraisal Standards” (USPAP). TAF itself may be at least partially responsible for increases in the number of complaints and heightened penalties levied against appraisers since they are the ‘official’ source for remedial (punitive) courses. Just as USPAP revisionsare completely unnecessary every two years, I strongly suspect a lot of policies are intended to increase opportunities for revenue generation via punitive remediation courses.

    I’m inclined to agree with AI on at least that decision. TAF is really one of the biggest threats to the very system and public trust it purports to ‘protect and preserve’.

    Ultimately it is directly up to Appraisal Institute Members via the Chapters to determine policy at AI. Nothing to my knowledge prohibits AI Members from coordinating efforts to revise or modify policies at a Chapter lobbying level.

    I have considerable respect for Johnathon, but I don’t think it is my place either as an individual appraiser or an Executive Board Member of the Appraiser’s Guild to comment on the propriety of The Appraisal Foundations internal administrative processes. Johnathon has a closer (former) connection and is logically concerned for his former peers. It was nice of him to take the time to pen his informative article.

    The selection of AI’s leadership is an issue for AI Members to determine. If the organization is perceived by its membership to be positive, then it will grow again. If not, then it will continue the decline J.M. refrenced.

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  2. Avatar nick says:

    I believe it is safe to say that Mr. Miller will not be invited for a position with AI.

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  3. This makes me so sad. The membership was asked for input into the next vice president. The membership very strongly supported Mr. Stainley (I suspect a lot of letters in support outside of the one group letter). Leadership needs to listen to the membership. It is the membership that makes the organization strong.

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  4. Avatar Scott says:

    I have never been a member/candidate of AI. Has always seemed like a HUGE waste of money (at least to me over the past 20 years). Maybe not true for commercial appraisers but then I only do residential.

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  5. Baggins Baggins says:

    They might have missed the unbiased fair without conflict of interest thing…

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  6. Avatar Realrose says:

    Thank you for this article; I never understood why the AI was not a member of the Appraisal Foundation; I thought it was because the AI was going to send every member a free copy of USPAP, but the Foundation gets money from sales of these documents that govern our work and then they actually have no teeth in the regulatory sense. I have been affiliated with the AI when it was the AIREA (American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers) and got my designation taking all my courses with the AIREA from 1980-1990 when I was awarded the MAI. It was rigorous, expensive, and challenging but I learned that the harder it got (they kept raising the bar to get the designation while I was working on mine) the better appraiser I would be. I thought I would be a hotshot like the big names I worked with in the Southern California Chapter who were in litigation appraising but I actually was humbled by the process. After 25 years in the profession I realized I still had things to learn, but my associates consulted with me on new issues or appraisal problems, allowing me to grow in my experience. Now after 42 years in this profession I am still paying dues and I realize they are doing absolutely nothing to promote the MAI and it feels like a boys club or fraternity rather than a professional group. The same people get all the jobs and it seems political, rather than professional. I am currently re-certifying for my MAI before the end of the year, just in case it will do something for me, but I don’t expect them to do anything real to promote the membership. I have never bad-mouthed the AI out of loyalty and respect, but I am actually at the point where I am complaining and intend to call the new CEO who awarded me my designation way back in 1990 at a meeting he attended in So Cal Chapter! I am going to ask him to give me one good reason to keep the MAI after 30 years and see what he says. I will report to this group because I value this discussion and have high hopes for the union which I understand defends appraisers on complaints. What keeps me from joining is that I don’t make enough in this business to pay for another organization that says they support appraisers, but I keep it in mind because I want to support all appraisers and be helpful. My experience is not that yours is not a good source of information on our profession, because it has been helpful in my understanding of what residential appraisers go through. Now I finally did some AMC work so I can relate, but what I object to is that there are a few who opine on politics and this is not really a good forum for that, but it has become repulsive sometimes and I have had to state my points of view which are not always received well, and I get the idea that my opinions about politics are considered repulsive to the management of this blog. I actually enjoy many of the comments and will continue to participate because I have a perspective on this profession and have seen it decline ever since the 2008 bailout and the creation of the Foundation. Thanks for listening.

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The Appraisal Institute Sham Election

by Jonathan Miller time to read: 7 min
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