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Lester Keizer, the CEO of solution provider Connecting Point in Las Vegas, who is currently a member of the Comptia board, would not comment specifically on Venator's compensation, but he applauded Venator for building a trade association for solution providers that is national and international in scope. He said he sees a need for a nonprofit trade association as long as it meets its "goals and objectives as a truly not-for-profit that serves its constituents. As long as it stays that course, it is necessary. I need a vendor-agnostic nonbiased association to filter through the propaganda of manufacturers."
The current board formally thanked Venator for his 20 years of service at its recent April meeting and voted to continue to provide a dollar-for-dollar match for every cash donation up to $1 million that the Comptia Educational Foundation receives on its own.
"We think it is our mission at Comptia to get the Education Foundation up on its feet," O'Malley said. "We believe very much in the endorsement matching funds provide. It also reassures donors that their money will not just be dollar-for- dollar, but one dollar donated equals $2 of benefit. We have done that for the last couple of years. And it is our intent to continue to support it until that Education Foundation is self-sustaining."
At the same recent meeting, Comptia's board voted to match up to 10 percent of employees' 401(k) contributions for 2008. In an e-mail, Thibodeaux said the board was unanimous in their support of the 401(k) match "recognizing staff for the great performance in 2008."
Besides the concerns regarding how Venator achieved his bonus, former board members also expressed concern about Comptia's direction under Venator because he was a CEO who did not like to be questioned or challenged and preferred carefully choreographed board meetings with little open and frank debate. Interviews with six former board members said a number of board members over the years had challenged Venator only to find themselves not renominated for membership to the board.
One board member that served two years said that it was just not long enough to effectively regulate or oversee the association. "You are only in a few meetings a year," he said. "It takes a few meetings to get to know the ropes -- and then you are exiting. The first year you are a newbie. The second year you are a lame duck. You can't do a lot in that short period of time. That's one of the fundamental structural problems at Comptia," the board member said.
Comptia board members now serve three one-year terms that can also be extended.
"To be fair, John had some association executive skills and had some vision as far as public policy and charitable efforts, but he was a very controlling person, a very insecure person who didn't like any debate," said one of the former board members interviewed for this story. "John managed that thing like his own personal little private company. Strong board members were kind of frowned upon."
Further, the ex-board member said there were some board members who looked at board participation as a ceremonial position. At one contentious meeting, a board member commented: "I thought this was just an honorary board," recalled the former board member. "That was a very telling comment. It was such a meaningless exercise when someone spoke up."
Venator laughed at the idea that he could control Comptia's board. "I have no idea where that's coming from. If anybody thinks they could ever control a Comptia board in 20 years, good luck with a gun, a whip and a chair in hand. There are 17 strong-willed individual people," Venator said.