Welcome to the Association of Former Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service
2013 Convention Preview and
AFSA 2012 Convention Recap
Where: South Florida (TBD possibly in combination with a cruise)
When: November 2013, specific dates TBA
2012 Recap: The 2012 AFSA-IRS Convention held in Las Vegas is history. The 2012 convention held October 12-17 officially was successful in a number of ways. First off, we had 87 registrants, down about 19 people from last year, but 56 were members, an increase of 1 from last year. We had some health issues pop up with some regular attendees, and a couple conflicts that also depressed our numbers by about 10. On the other hand, host Howard Karsh did an incredible job of getting many new attendees to come to the convention. Many of these were first time attendees, and they indicated they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. More importantly, it was nice to see the attendee list include about half of our total from west of the Mississippi River.
Our hosts did an incredible job – lead host was Howard Karsh who did most of the initial ground work, and as we got closer to the convention, Howard received some excellent assistance from Swayzine Fields. In addition, Jim Meyers, Ron Line, George Meyer provided much assistance in numerous areas, as did Al Selby. A convention is a major undertaking that takes patience, follow through, organization, a tough hide, communications skills, and a lot of time. It is a job where you never please everyone, yet at the same time, I think everyone was pleased. I want to recognize these people and thank them all for volunteering to help out. These members and spouses are the type of people, and the type of assistance we need in planning these conventions and making them successful, and enjoyable. In addition, we had additional assistance in the hospitality room which cannot be discounted, from set up, to clean up to registration from Diane Line, Barbara Meyer, Nancy Selby, Myrna Meyers, Virgie Marrero and others including people who helped with presentations as well. I apologize to those I have neglected to mention.
Our hospitality room opened Thursday, and provided camaraderie, conversation, new friendships, refreshed memories and old friendships. Incoming Executive Director Mary Ruiz wrote this about the hospitality suite: "I found the hospitality room at the JW Marriott and I found a place to kick-back, unwind, and take a break from the convention schedule. The warm and comfortable atmosphere of the suite, with its picturesque mountain-view, plush decor, and spacious common area rendered the idyllic rendezvous/space for us to relax, reconnect, reminisce, & make new friends. Conveniently located on the 1st floor of our bustling resort it was only a matter of minutes before our day's hard work agenda or tourism, gave way to our evening's good times agenda. 'Work Hard, Play Hard' has always been my philosophy and that we did. Night after night we reunited, following the conference, for libations, bottomless snack bowls, and light-hearted banter/fun.
As promised, Sin City delivered, luxury accommodations, state-of-the-art gambling, world-class food, and non-stop entertainment. However, for me, it was the reunion with colleagues and friends, the introduction of people I now call friends, the laughter, the collaboration, the socializing, the support, the encouragement, and the implicit understanding that can only come from those 'who know.'
We are a minute special group of people with a unique commonality that can only be truly appreciated, without explanation, by those who have lived it. Its events like these that remind me how fortunate I am to have enjoyed such a fruitful and fascinating career and a retirement that allows me to remain connected. Thank you to everyone who attended!! I am already looking forward to next year!"
We again suggested to members they bring a friend, which was initiated by Jim Meyers last year. Unfortunately, this year there was some drop off in attendees in this category. This was either the third or fourth time the convention had been held in Las Vegas. This year it was held at the beautiful J.W. Marriott Resort and Spa in Summerlin. The resorts rooms were beautiful, the grounds spacious, exquisitely landscaped and was home to a wonderful pool (heated) which I used, and beautiful golf course, which I wisely did not use, various restaurants on site, and many one armed bandits who provided entertainment, and in at least three cases, winners for our attendees (actually 4 but I lost a lot of money at the airport thereby being an overall loser).
Initially, the weather provided some difficulty with the convention. Thunderstorms unfortunately cancelled the golf tournament on Thursday. Some more bad weather returned on Friday (after my swim) and temps dropped down to about 65 during the storm, with strong winds, but after that, the weather warmed up continually for the rest of the convention. Overall, it was very pleasant weather.
Registration went very smoothly as a result of preparations and assistance from the volunteers and name tags provided by Jim Meyer’s daughter. Thursday night, numerous groups of people went out together for dinner with each other. Friday was the first official day. Thursday was a free day for tours, to explore the grounds (I have never seen so many waterfalls in one location), to use the facilities provided by the beautiful spa, as well as the resort's fitness facilities or whatever.
On Friday afternoon, the Board of Directors had their annual fall board meeting. Discussions included reviewing the nomination committee’s recommendations, next year’s convention, discussion of proposed by-law changes regarding duties of regional directors and representative, review of financials and introduction of the incoming executive director, Mary Ruiz.
Later Friday night we had the Welcome Dinner in the Marabella room with a special guest, former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who is a well known criminal defense attorney representing clients in some very high profile cases, and also, who has appeared in a number of movies and TV shows. Mr. Goodman opened up the dinner with martini in hand, appearing with two wonderful show girls in full elegant costumes and shared with us several war stories, covering both his tenure as mayor, and also as a criminal defense lawyer. One story surprisingly tied into my career, in that the case to which he referred resulted in a Federal Judge (Wood) being murdered and an AUSA assigned to the case taught for awhile law and evidence at FLETC as he had been threatened. He was one of my instructors. Shows you how small of a world it is. The dinner was buffet style (three choices for main dishes), and everything was really quite delicious (well, maybe one dish in my opinion could have been better, but that was just a side). Then, the hospitality room opened afterwards.
Saturday was an early day, beginning at 8:30 AM with the presentation of colors by the UNLV ROTC Honor Guard under the command of SFC James E. Castillo to kick off the business meeting. This was followed by the pledge of allegiance and two invocations, one by guest Pastor Steve C. Beason International Church of Las Vegas in Summerlin.
Next on the agenda was an incredible presentation by the Headquarters IRS - CI designee, local Special Agent in Charge Paul A. Camacho, who captivated his audience with his speech on IRS involvement in organized crime and potential direction regarding saving and capturing the history of the CI. This portion was open to non-members alike and unfortunately, many spouses left without hearing Paul. They probably would have heard more about the history and involvement of CI than many had heard in 30 years of marriage. Please see the piece by member Ray Sherrard on Paul’s presentation in the newsletter.
Regional Director and Scholarship Committee Chair Peg Thomas then provided an update on the AFSA scholarship programs that we administer, including expansion of eligibility and the addition of the James F. Howe, Sr. Scholarship to go along with the original Frank L. Smith Award. Peggy encouraged members to seek relatives to apply for these worthwhile $2,000 awards.
Afterwards, the business meeting continued with a routine business meeting including the approval of streamlined bylaws shortening the time period of dropping members for non-payment of dues to about 60 days from over 90. The Board felt that members should be able to afford the $50 dues and the number of contacts and time spent on collecting delinquent dues or suspending members for non-payment was inordinate, especially when compared with the end results, i.e. those members who still did not pay. Financials were reviewed. We also had discussion regarding proposed by-law changes to better define roles of Regional Directors and reps and to seek more involvement/participation from members.
Paul’s presentation was followed by a presentation by member/region 9 Director Richard Malone relative to HR 218 provisions, what one can and cannot do, and some of the problems with the inconsistency as to how it relates to getting qualified from state to state. Rich was then followed by member Ray Sherrard. Ray, in addition to preparing a very interesting display of CI memorabilia, photos, badges, articles and more, is also working on a book of the history of CI, and is soliciting stories from former agents. Some of the material he had planned to discuss was unexpectedly covered by Paul Camacho, so his presentation was a bit shorter than planned.
The nominating committee presented their recommendations and Chair Jim Meyers opened the nominations from the floor. Elections were held and this is the end result of the entire process: Through normal progress, 1st VP Mary Fran Martin will move into the President’s position. 2nd VP Jim Meyers will be the 1st VP. Regional Director (4) Dan Pieschel was elected to be 2nd VP. Regional Director Peggy Thomas (3), was elected to the position of Secretary. Outgoing President Jose” I. Marrero whose terms expire becomes the immediate past president. Also, reelected were Board Regional Directors David Nicholson (1), and Al Selby (5). Gerard Dupczak was elected as Regional Director (7) replacing David Swire who declined to run and has served since 2006 in that position. Our thanks to Dave Swire and to Ron Line (outgoing secretary) who also served as past president, and cruise director as well as convention registrar for numerous years, and to all the officials elected who volunteered to run. Also, reappointed was F. Robert “Bob” Armentrout as parliamentarian by the President for another term.
The business meeting continued with discussion centering on next year’s convention. Jose Marrero will be hosting this, and it will be held somewhere in South Florida (between West Palm and Miami) and will likely include a combination with a cruise with the business portion upfront, followed by perhaps a cruise for up to 5 days. An event planner will be hired for this. However, as noted, the event planner doesn’t get paid by AFSA, but will be paid ultimately from the hotel or cruise company contracted with. It was presented to membership that the BOD had discussed this and wanted to give this a try. AFSA has a small group, and as such, with between 50-110 people routine attending our conventions, as an organization, we have extremely little negotiating power. In addition, negotiations have become much more complicated and much more expensive than as recently as 3 years ago and certainly compared to 10 years. Even internet charges, which for example run about $10/day at the J.W. Marriott had to be included in negotiations. Additionally, AV equipment is very expensive and the cost of meals have skyrocketed at the hotels. It was felt by the BOD, and discussed with membership, that an event planner working with our host has more pull as they represent multiple clients throughout the year, and the hotels want that business. The planner knows the best deals that are available. In addition, we learned this year, and in previous, how onerous and time consuming these negotiations can become, and we are not expert in these negotiations. Planning a convention, finding locations etc. and negotiating can be very stressful, as the more recent planners and their respective spouses will attest. One small slip up can result in a huge financial deficit for AFSA. In addition, should anything arise with a AFSA planner, who usually has a severe learning curve on planning a convention, could lead to a catastrophic result Such event could be illness, work, illness of a family member and worse. Working with an event planner will help decreas some of these potential issues and consequently it was decided to give the event planner a trial this year. The convention will most likely be held in early November 2013.
AFSA does not attempt to make profits on these conventions, but it does seek to make them self-sustaining, even though the business meeting is mandated by the by-laws. This year, AFSA did cover its’ costs through convention revenues. AFSA in fact had a surplus of $78, the first surplus in a few years due to excellent planning and monitoring by our hosts.
President Marrero then took new business and an emotion discussion ensued which was initiated by a member, who had lost a number of good friends in year’s past, and righteously bemoaned the fact that so many members seemed to not be attending our conventions and staying in touch. The member wondered if it was because of the cost of the resorts used. Several years ago we attempted to find answers to this very same question by survey following a convention. Answers were split almost evenly between finding cheaper places, and maintaining the standards of the 4 start resorts we have been booking. It should be noted that the resort costs, while negotiations have tightened up, have remained within striking distance of reasonable inflation over the last 5 years. Some of the bigger culprits in the hotel costs include municipalities increasing a “tourism” tax that affects hotels and related prices (over and above sales taxes) and meals. It was also pointed out that the smaller, economical chains do not have the facilities for us to hold our business meetings, CPE, board meetings and retirement seminar, as well as the hospitality rooms. Rental of these spaces somewhere would literally cost us thousands of dollars. That is why we strongly request and encourage members to stay at the host hotel so all costs can be equally and fairly borne by all attendees. In addition, with the cost of oil fluctuating wildly, the days of $200 flights are gone and can run anywhere from $275 - $1000. This is the largest increase, along with entertainment and meals.
We listened to members, and moved our business to the weekend so those who worked, or whose spouses worked, could attend and not lose money. We have maintained CPE to allow deductibility for members. We expanded our program to include retirement seminars which is open to members and spouses addressing issues like Medicare, donut holes, when to take a Social Security pension, IRAs, wills and other topics suggested by, yes, you the members. About 4 years ago, we included the Consultant Summit, and that first summit had over 12 companies with only about 20 some invited. During the past three years, I have used the traditional original companies, as well as companies that hired our employees to invite to our convention. However, we have such a small group of people attending our summit, if you were in business, you need to ask this of yourself if it was your business. Would you spend $1500 to send a rep to a group of only about between 15 - 25 attendees? We have planned around religious holidays to not exclude members.
The bottom line, there is no one answer. It all comes down to each individual’s priority. Some member’s priority, years after retirement, continue to be earnings and work. We have no control over that. Part of the issue that affects our attendance is that unlike, Customs, Secret Service DEA or the FBI, our members do not ever have to move if they do not enter management, and consequently, many do not have as wide a circle of friends, geographically speaking as do members in other agencies who must move even as non-supervisory agents. Finally, it was discussed that there is still a perception that AFSA is strictly HQ personnel. This was and has been addressed before as well, this is incorrect. We actively seek volunteers and officers and anyone can run for such, or volunteer. We try to make this an organization for all members, though the organization will NEVER fit the needs of all members due to varied interests of members. The adoption of bringing a friend to the convention is still the best way to get your friends to attend and to revisit old times and to increase your enjoyment. However, it is incumbent upon the member to reach out and convince HIS/HER friends to attend.
CPE included a session on working with excel taught by the knowledgeable Chuck Taylor and IRAs, including effects with potential tax law changes as to Roth and traditional IRA taught by the equally knowledgeable Jacque Riordon Nichols and preceded by the Consultant’s summit.
The business meeting ended with the traditional turning over of the gavel to incoming president Mary Fran Martin, president effective January 1.
Later, we had a very fine banquet provided by the J.W. Marriott. The meals were really excellent as was the service. Howard Karsh introduced our guest of honor and explained his motivation for founding and contributing to the James F. Howe, Sr. Scholarship fund. That guest of honor was William Schroeder and his wife. While Mr. Schroeder did not speak, Howard spoke for him, and in this person’s opinion who has heard Howard speak at numerous retirements and functions, Howard produced his best speech ever in a very eloquent and gracious manner.
Sunday was a free day, Rev. Beason had invited our membership to visit the International Church of Las Vegas for Sunday service after providing an invocation. Then later that day, at 2 PM, we departed by bus for a fascinating tour of the Mob Museum, that included a city tour. We met up with Paul Camacho who snapped a group photo of us in front of the museum (see our website and the newsletter for this picture.)The mob museum had so many exhibits to see, that a number of us did not even make it to one of the floors, as the tour had to proceed. We stopped at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign for pictures where several of our party encountered “Elvis” packing his car and getting ready to leave, but who did pose for several pictures with the members of our party. The tour continued, with some insights into the city, as well as a stop at the Fremont Street area where members were able to choose from a variety of restaurants from which to have to dinner, and where we also viewed the Freemont Street Light Show on the ceiling which was fascinating, as well as the many street performers. Others attended various shows that evening, and Monday evening as well.
Monday morning began with the retirement seminar, an incredible seminar which was kicked off by Social Security Public Affairs Specialist Rita Meier from the Las Vegas office and the returning Michael J. Feeley, president of Pension Advisory Services (www.pensionadvisoryservices.com) of Brewton, AL. This seminar far exceeded last year’s in the relevant topics covered and the answers given as these two experts answered the questions of those in attendance, and was not redundant to what was covered last year, to say the least. Sadly, over 30 people signed up for this even, but only 8 attended. I am still five years from even considering social security, but I felt the discussion led by these two was outstanding and extremely beneficial. Valuable information covered included Medicare, government pension offsets, windfall elimination provision penalties as they pertain to delayed purchase of supplemental medicare insurance, survivor benefits, Medicare, options on when to draw Social Security. Thanks Al Selby, Rita and Mike.
Other trips were taken, I know some went to numerous shows, and on tours to the Red Rock area as well as to the overlook. Unfortunately I did not attend these, perhaps those who did will share their experiences.
On Tuesday, a number of us took a tour to Hoover Dam which included an entertaining and knowledgeable tour guide/driver. Then hitting the Dam itself was fascinating, not only the actual structure, inside and out, but the exhibits, tour and history. Our bus then diverted to a quick unplanned trip to overlook Lake Mead. We all enjoyed this trip and ran into several other members at the Dam.
In summary, I again thoroughly enjoyed this convention, my third, and my last as executive director. Meeting new friends and seeing old friends and seeing a new area. I encourage you to consider these conventions for these reasons alone. We were blessed to have had a job that not only paid reasonably well, and was interesting and challenging but also allowed us to retire early. Many of us have pursued and continued very profitable employment. However, as the sands of time run out, I encourage all of you to seek balance in your lives, and spend that time seeing people and places, and just taking a little time off from work.