Ask Our Lawyer March 2015

Ask Our Lawyer

by Rod Taylor – ABATE Legal Services

GEORGE TINKHAM, THE THOMAS JEFFERSON OF MROs

I met George T. over a quarter of a century ago and we have practised law together that many years.  Brutally honest and brilliant, no lawyer was better equipped to create the organizational elements of the modern MROs.  He was a founder and creator of what we see at A.B.A.T.E. OF ILLINOIS and has advised and nurtured scores of motorcycle organizations throughout his life. He invented the chapter basis that many MROs use today (he was worried about lawyers suing us and decided he would make them pick off a Chapter at a time). He has been decorated with just about every motorcycle award possible, including the highest award presented by A.B.A.T.E. OF ILLINOIS. And he has served as the de facto general counsel to scores of ABATE organizations.

George bleeds motorcycle fuel and knows just about every biker song, movie and the words/lines thereto.  He even put together a listing of each of the above.  He is the real thing when it comes to riding.  His garage is full of just about every motorcycle on anyone’s top ten list, including a Honda 160 (with original tires) which sits next to an WWII Indian drive shaft propelled model, which is next to the Italian collection.  His favorites – the Harleys – are out front.  When he gets bored with his own collection, he retreats to the Tinkham family farm and motorcycle shop owned by his brother.  The world of motorcyclist rights would not be the same without him.   If your motorcycle broke down miles from anywhere, George T. is the man you want to be there with you. What a lucky day it was, when he came the motorcyclists way.

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR MINUTES – ABATE SECRETARIES TAKE A LOOK

(We have had a series of questions about minutes of board meetings.  What follows is a discussion of the issues confronted by boards and board secretaries.  Let us have your comments and feedback. -Rod)

Q: Our local ABATE organization has had some discussion recently over how we should take minutes. Someone told me they had to make verbatim transcripts of the board meetings, but others say they only have to reflect the actions of the board.  What should we do?

A: First, look to your bylaws for guidance.  Often times, the bylaws will specify what type of minutes to use.  If you have a choice, there two possibilties a board secretary can make regarding minutes.  They can either record every word, or prepare summaries of the conversations.  Each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Roberts Rules generally favors a show-all, tell-all approach to Board Minutes.  Certainly that makes life easy when all that is required is to record exactly every comment and then show the struck language that is not part of the approved minutes. Only Board members should be privy to the “draft minutes” and then when the “draft minutes are approved”  those minutes are published and made available to the members.  These rules regarding minutes are simple and easy to enforce.  However, these kinds of recordings may chill candid ramblings that would be inappropriate for publication – even if shown as stricken – and may contain legal issues that need to be protected.  For example, what if libel, slander, race or politically sensitive remarks, etc. are recorded with no way to edit or redact the comments?  Those type of comments could come back to haunt the organization in the future or cause divisions within the organizations.

The summary approach also has considerations which recommend it.  It allows brutally honest exchanges between board members, – even inappropriate exchanges – without chilling what some folks really think.  It makes the lawyers for ABATE sleep better without worrying about libel and slander suits.  It allows ABATE  to put its best foot forward in the final minutes as approved by the Board.  Since we as an organization are somewhat political –  if not mostly political – this may be the best route, unless we want to run the risk of causing divisions within the organization.

Since the summary approach does not record perfectly the words and expressions occurring during a board meeting, Board members can be accused of inappropriate editing.  In other words, the Board is reserving the right to “clean up” irrelevant comments that may or may not be appropriate.  It then becomes important for the secretary to be judicious in deciding how the board discussions are to be summarized.

In general, given the sue-everybody mentality that seems to be running amok these days, it may be that adopting summary minutes may afford the best solution for ABATE boards and their members, as well as the organization as a whole.

ABATE RIDER INSTRUCTORS SAVED THIS TOWN!

I attended ABATE of Indiana’s Motorcycle Safety Division Annual Awards Banquet. At that banquet, we  thank those instructors for all they do for the motorcycle safety program. Prior to these programs, most states had no affective motorcycle safety training program. In short,  beginning riders were given a pink slip and told to practice on the highways and byways of this country. If they survived thirty (30) days or so, someone would examine their riding skills learned the hard way. The resulting plan was – if they die, they die. ABATE and its cadre of dedicated safety instructors and supporters of state funded programs changed all that.

Over the years, I have wondered how many lives have been saved by ABATE supported safety instructors. With that in mind, I asked John Bodeker, a motorcycle safety expert, if he could statistically calculate the number of lives saved in Indiana since that program was started. His answer, yes, around 1000 lives since the program was started in 1986. And even if it were only one, the effort would have been worth it.  If you accept the Indiana statistic as an average for each state (Indiana is average in population), it can be argued that over 50,000 lives have been saved because of the influence of an MRO in each state.  That is the size of  the average town in this country, so it is very cool for us to be able to say that “ABATE saved (the equivalent of ) that town”.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW [ALMOST] ABOUT GETTING ON SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY

Even though the Social Security regulations on eligibility for disability payments cover thousands of pages, we can reduce them to these simple rules/questions:

  1.  Start with – do we meet guidelines for a defined impairment? If so, go to the next rule.
  1. Are we working? If so, do we meet the definition of “substantial gainful activity?” Even if we are forcing ourselves and injuring our health even more – tough bananas if we earn more than the threshold amount [that amount goes up every year.] Even if you are not doing the work and have an employer who wants to keep you on for old times’ sake, and even if you and your work are worthless – you are not eligible. This is decision time. To quit or not to quit is the question – for health’s sake.
  1. Did we pay enough money into Soc. Sec.?? The S.S. folks look at payments by you for a period of years. Remember for every dollar you put in, your employer puts in a dollar. All that money is sent to the Federales in Baltimore Md., where they keep it in a big bag until they decide who gets it. Guess how much the Government puts in? Zero – that’s right, zero.

This money is put in by you and your employer – only. Look at the pay stub portion that talks about FICA. There is no line for contributions by anyone else but you and your work effort – so much for the argument that this payment is a welfare payment.

  1. Are we impaired and meet a listing? You should not walk but run to the nearest rehabilitation specialists that can help you sort through all the regulations defining impairment and whether you meet a defined listing.
  1. Can you do anything else? For those of us that have reached 50 we get off the hook a little on the retraining requirement. I think the theory is we will be dead by the time we get retrained, so why not let up on the over-50 crowd. Remember, in the meantime, they are holding your money in that bag in Baltimore.

The good news is after 2 years on disability, you get Medicare, the bad news is that you will wait 13 months to get on disability – even if you started today. So what do you do for that time period. Congress forgot to answer that one for you.

p.s. In a future article, we will cover how to avoid being labeled a sandbagger by the Federales, and other helpful rules of S.S. experience.

REMEMBER THE SONG “I AM MY OWN GRANDPA?”

Q: My husband and I have wonderful grandchildren, which we are raising because our daughter is not blessed with good mothering skills at this stage in her life. Now that my husband has cancer, we are concerned for our grandchildren’s future. What can we do? ABATE MEMBERS.

A: I have received this question many times from concerned parents. Usually, a life threatening disease causes them to question “what will happen to our grand kids if we are not around to raise them?” Many grandparents have only Social Security for themselves and certainly have not been in a position to save significant assets for the benefit of their grandchildren. As we all know, Social Security goes to the benefit of the worker, the worker’s spouse, and their unemancipated children.

The big question becomes what do you do to help safeguard the future lives of grandchildren when the only asset of the grandparents is typically their home, meager savings, and the Social Security benefits they have earned and are receiving. It was then that it came to me when I thought of that old country song “I’m My Own Grandpa.” What if the grandparents adopted their own grandkids? Would those grandchildren get Social Security benefits if something happened to the grandparents? The answer to that question is yes, if the grandparents legally adopt their own grandchildren. That solution will work; and will insure that the grandchildren will have a good and decent life through their college years. One possible hitch – consent of the parents is required.

ABATE HAS A NYC TAXI DRIVER FOR A FRIEND

There is an ABATE sticker on at least one New York City taxi cab and I have an admission to make – I’ve never met an NYC taxi driver that I didn’t like. Yes, I have heard all the stories, but here is what I know: they are all citizens or are on work permits legally in the U.S. as part of their taxi license requirements. Most work 60 to 80 hours a week like the one I met. J. Motobustsu [he said call me Mike] was darker that night.

Originally from Senegal, Africa, he spoke English better than I do, along with French and German and some Senegalese dialects. You would think we would have nothing in common – not so. We have motorcycles and Johnny Cash in common.  His country is full of Kawasaki 100s – the same bike a lot of motorcycle safety programs use for motorcycle safety instruction. After our two-wheel discussion, he looked at me in the mirror and asked [I must have had the look] “do you like Johnny Cash”? I replied that JC was a patron saint of my home county. With that he pulled down his sun visor and revealed about 6 CDs of JC’s greatest hits. Next scene is me, a guy from Senegal, crossing the Tri-Borough Bridge, windows rolled down and “Ring of Fire” playing as loud as he could play it.

If you happen to be in NYC and notice a taxi with an ABATE sticker on the bumper, wave – he is one of us.

Rod Taylor


ABATE Legal Services

abatelegal.com

All questions from ABATE members are answered confidentially unless otherwise authorized and only after the matter is concluded, except when authorization for publication anonymously or otherwise is given for pending matters. Remember, injured ABATE members pay only 28 ½% of total recovery and expenses as approved by client, consistent with and conforming to applicable state law. Elsewhere, you may pay 33 ⅓%, 40% or even 50% of your recovery. ABATE members are not charged for recovery of damage to your motorcycle, and have access to a 24-hour toll-free telephone number. Call us at (800) 25-RIDER. Questions? Submit them to RodTaylor@abatelegal.com.  © 2015

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