TAF Response RE Gag Rule
TAF Response to Columbia Institute eVIP Appraisal News
April 6, 2012, Mr. George Harrison, The Columbia Institute
Dear Mr. Harrison:
This is regarding an item that appeared in the “Ask George” column in the April 2 edition of eVIP Appraisal News.
The question and answer relates to Appraisal Sponsors of The Appraisal Foundation apparently being under some type of constraint regarding freedom of expression. You have made a similar claim in a previous column and we thought that it was time to correct the record.
You state that “The Appraisal Foundation has a restriction clause – gag rule – in its sponsorship/membership agreement that any sponsor may not publicly criticize the Foundation.” This is absolutely untrue. We simply ask that if any Sponsor has a concern about the Foundation and its activities, that the Sponsorshares those concerns with the Foundation before going public with them. It in no way restricts the freedom of expression of a Sponsor. Once the concerns are shared with the Foundation, a Sponsor may publicly speak without restriction. Our Code of Conduct for Sponsors has been in place for many years and, with the exception of the recent Appraisal Institute leadership, adherence to the Code has not been a problem for the Sponsors. The Foundation has historically operated in a very transparent manner and encourages dissent. In fact, that is precisely why we post all comment letters, whether they are favorable or critical of proposed Foundation work, on our website.
Regarding the Appraisal Practices Board (APB), you mention that it is a slap in the face to existing professional appraisal societies because the APB will be “ignoring all the works and publications of decades.” Once again this is simply not the case. The voluntary guidance issued by the APB is based on and specifically references the existing body of knowledge that has been developed over the years.
Lastly, your version of the events that led to the proposed suspension of the Appraisal Institute from The Appraisal Foundation leaves out many pertinent and important facts.
It is our hope that you will share the contents of this letter with your readers so that they may be made aware of the Foundation’s position.
David S. Bunton
Excerpted from the April 2, 2012 edition of: The Columbia Institute eVIP Appraisal News
Q. In the next to the last paragraph of your letter to NAIFA you mention some sort of “…free expression restrictions….” on the NAIFA and ASA. I’m in the dark….. can you provide me with a brief explanation and directions to some good references?
A. Certainly. The letter to the NAIFA was written on behalf of NAA regarding the Appraisal Institute’s resignation as a Sponsor of the Appraisal Foundation. It was written in response to a letter to NAA from NAIFA president Monica Trotter. Both letters may be reviewed at www.naappraisers.org.
The Appraisal Foundation has a restriction clause–gag rule–in its sponsorship/membership agreement that any sponsor may not publicly criticize the Foundation. The AI (and some other sponsors through the years) has been critical of various activities of the Foundation. Most especially what has been characterized as “mission creep.” This includes the activities of the AQB and more recently the Trustees in creating the APB. I think it is clear to anyone who has studied TAF that it has gone way beyond its authority under Title XI. I think the AI saw the creation of the APB as a slap in the face to it and all old-line associations such as the ASA and NAIFA, by ignoring all the works and publications of decades. AI considered addressing this issue during Congressional hearings and discussed such in its own government affairs committee meeting prior to giving testimony before a Dodd-Frank hearing.
Although some might say that this was not “publicly critical” of TAF, there were reps there from some other associations. TAF, therefore, considered this to be a violation of its sponsorship agreement, and sanctioned AI by prohibiting it from either purchasing USPAP at the standard quantity discount rates or reproducing it for a two-year period. This would have resulted in a transfer of about $1 million from the AI to the TAF over the two-year period. Consequently, the AI withdrew sponsorship.
I personally think that the gag rule is wrong, and have formally addressed this issue with both TAF and the ASC. In fact, in one of AI’s subsequent addresses to Congress (by Sarah Stevens, MAI) they reference a 2001 letter the ASC sent me in response to my complaints. I also think that the appraisal associations should be sticking together at a time like this and be able to participate in open, unrestricted debate with freedom of expression. I think it would be prudent for other appraisal associations and in the best interests of the profession, for all the associations to drop sponsorship and function independently, as do associations in other professions.
The TAF’s boards, with the possible exception of the Trustees, are comprised mainly of members of the AI–there is no reason for them or any other association to “sponsor” TAF. (Oddly enough, the AI dropped out of NAR just over twenty years ago over a similar issue. NAR would not let AI speak “independently” before Congressional hearings regarding Title XI of FIRREA.)