Members of Committee to Preserve ANA and the American Nurses Association For Defamation and Conspiracy in Waging Malicious Campaign To Stop Disaffiliation
CANTON, Mass.—In response to a series of baseless and inflammatory lawsuits, as well as the publication of knowingly false and misleading information calculated to discredit and defame the leadership of the MNA, the MNA has filed counterclaims in both state and federal courts against Margaret Barry and other members of her Committee to Preserve ANA Affiliation for alleged defamation and for conspiring with the American Nurses Association in waging a campaign designed to prevent the MNA from pursuing its legal right to disaffiliate from the ANA.
"The lawsuits we have filed are in response to a vicious and shameful smear campaign initiated by the American Nurses Association, working in concert with a disgruntled minority of MNA members led by Marget Barry, who are opposed to MNA efforts break from the American Nurses Association federation," said Julie Pinkham, RN, MNA Executive Director. "It is clear that ANA will do almost anything, including engage in the lowest form of gutter politics and deceit to stop MNA members from exercising their democratic rights to vote for independence from the ANA."
Over the last two months, Barry, along with other MNA members, including Janice Boutotte, Annie Lewis O’Connor and Judy Sweeney have filed lawsuits in state and federal courts, accompanied by press releases and statements from the American Nurses Association that attempt to discredit the current leadership of the MNA and legally prohibit the MNA Board from pursuing disaffiliation. Each lawsuit has sought to enjoin the MNA from expending funds to promote disaffiliation from the ANA, and each action failed to win such an injunction. It is important to note that all of the cases are being argued by a Washington, D.C.-based attorney believed to be affiliated with the ANA, which stands to lose more than $1.2 million a year if MNA disaffiliates. The ANA is based in Washington, D.C.
Most recently, Barry and other members of the Committee to preserve ANA, were widely featured in a series of inflammatory articles published in the ANA’s national publication, The American Nurse, which is circulated throughout the entire ANA federation of state nurses associations. The articles made wildly false characterizations of the new leadership of the organization and misrepresented what transpired at the first vote for disaffiliation and the first Board meeting following the vote. These false claims and statements were also made in mailings to MNA members in recent weeks, and were even repeated in a recorded message delivered by a telemarketing company to many thousand MNA members. Nearly all of these activities and materials originated from Washington, D.C.
The MNA counterclaims charge Barry with engaging in a calculated effort to deliberately defame and damage the reputation of the MNA leadership in the hopes of chilling MNA leadership efforts to hold a successful disaffiliation vote on March 24th. The suits charge Barry, along with the other parties to lawsuits, with conspiring with the ANA in forming a "common design or agreement to defame and discredit the MNA and its officers and directors; and to file frivolous, malicious and abusive lawsuits against the MNA."
The MNA lawsuits allege these legal actions were "funded by the ANA" and were filed for "the ulterior purposes of chilling MNA’s speech and deterring it from vigorously campaigning for disaffiliation." The suite further charges that those filing the lawsuits against MNA did so with the understanding that they had little chance of success.
The MNA’s claims have been supported by a recent ruling in Norfolk Superior Court concerning the case brought by Janice Boutotte against the MNA. The judge rejected the plaintiff’s call for a temporary restraining order, citing her belief that case had little likelihood of success, as well as the fact that granting the injunction would do irreparable harm to the MNA.
Background on Issue
Last year, members from a variety of leadership groups within the organization campaigned for a change in MNA bylaws calling for the MNA to disaffiliate from the ANA. The Board of Directors of MNA voted in favor of this measure. Over a four month period, town meetings were held across the state and a debate on the issue was conducted among the membership.
On November 9, 200, more than 62 percent of MNA members attending the organization’s annual business meeting voted in favor of the split from ANA. However, the vote fell just 4 percentage points (49) votes shy of the supermajority required under MNA bylaws. Following the vote, a grassroots movement started immediately within a number of MNA represented bargaining units urging the MNA leadership to pursue disaffiliation as quickly as possible.
In December, the Board of Directors reaffirmed its commitment to pursue disaffiliation, and made changes in staff to support this effort. A minority group on the board including the sitting president and four board members resigned in protest and left the meeting. The Board then appointed replacements for the vacant seats in strict adherence to the MNA bylaws. Each and every action taken by the Board was reviewed by MNA legal counsel to ensure nothing was done to in any way violate MNA bylaws or policies.
Despite the facts of the matter, some of those who resigned their posts since joined with others who support affiliation, as well as the ANA to misrepresent these events in an effort to discredit the new MNA leadership.
In January, the Board of Directors of MNA, with the support of a number of the MNA’s principal leadership groups, voted unanimously to support disaffiliation and scheduled a special business meeting for the membership of MNA to vote on the issue once again. The meeting has been scheduled for March 24, 2001 in Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Mass.