Setting the record straight on Huntsville!

Submitted by Tom McNeal on 4/29/05 at 2:44 PM. ( tommcneal(AT)aol(DOT)com )

Rather than having others characterize and paraphrase my position, proposal, and opinions, I offer the facts as I see them and in my own words. For those so inclined and with sufficient interest and time, I invite you to share in my communications with the NTA Board and then form your own opinions as to what occurred at the 2004 NTA Competition. Then please make your opinions known to each other and to the NTA!

First I must thank those who've posted their support and their positive comments in the recent and related threads. As many of you know, "that can be very risky around here!) I also sincerely thank all of the NTA members, directors, competitors and judges who have personally called and emailed in agreement with me since the 2004 NTA show in Huntsville. It is for you, for the good of the NTA, and the integrity of the National Taxidermy Competition that I have stood up and raised the issues that I have. These issues go way beyond an apology that is surely owed to Mr. Kish. These issues relate directly to the conduct of NTA Officials both during and after last year's show that struck at the very heart and the integrity of the NTA and the 2004 NTA Taxidermy Competition.

When early opinions on this matter were posted by an NTA member shortly after the show, some will remember that they were met with a scurilous and disgraceful attempt by NTA "officials) to publicly discredit and humiliate anyone with a differing view. I personally posted at the time only that my views were known to those involved and that I would be writing to the NTA on the matter in the appropriate forum with copies provided to all concerned. (See the Industry Forum Archives "Outrage at the NTA) July-2004)

I subsequently did so and have copied below my letter of Feb 1, 2005 which was delivered to the 2005 NTA Winter Board Meeting in New Orleans. While I have received considerable positive feedback and support from individual board members and many other recipients, I have not yet received any official reply to my letter from Mark Wilson or the NTA.

I've had a lot to say on this matter and fairly warn you now; "This is not a short post!) In fact, I'm not sure if there's any limit to how long a post on the furum can be or if it will fit in one post. I apologize in advance if message length limitations require additional posts or if cutting and pasting from MS Word causes any unexpected formatting problems.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

February 1, 2005

National Taxidermists Association

Attention: Mark Wilson, President; NTA Officers, and Directors

I am compelled to write, with copies to be sent in respect and for the record to the 2004 NTA Competition Judges, on a number of issues and concerns that I see as crucial to the health and well being of the National Taxidermists Association. I have specifically chosen to raise these issues at this time and in this forum as it is not my intent to publicly discredit or embarrass anyone. In my opinion, there was way too much of that on the internet shortly after the show and I will speak to those issues in a moment. As will be apparent, the timing of this letter should not be seen as any reluctance on my part to speak frankly and openly to these issues in any forum. I bring these important matters to you, the NTA Board, because they need your attention! They belong not in "executive session) or otherwise under the rug; but rather they cry out for open and honest discussion and remedy. Accordingly, I respectfully ask that this letter be read into and made part of the minutes of this 2005 NTA Winter Board Meeting. I further ask that the issues raised herein be fully considered and addressed by the NTA Board.

I write first as an NTA member to restate my displeasure and my disagreement with the decision to remove Joe Kish as the 2004 NTA Gamehead & Large Mammal Judge. As I told Mark in the competition room after the firing, I believe this decision was bad for the NTA and for all concerned. Had I competed in the competition, I would be writing as a competitor to let you know how disappointed I was to discover that my large mammal and/or gamehead entry had not been judged and critiqued by Joe Kish as the NTA had promised and for whom I would have surely and enthusiastically prepared. Perhaps most importantly, I am writing to you as a member of the 2004 Competition Staff, with serious professional concerns as to the circumstances under which this decision came to be made, its negative impact on the NTA, and the actual and perceived integrity of the 2004 and future NTA Competitions.

My displeasure is born out of a simple sense of fairness and equity and that due consideration and respect be shown to others in all matters. My disagreement is not unique nor is it the first I've had over the years with various NTA actions or policies. Notwithstanding these disagreements, my support and my commitment to the NTA has been long standing and continues still. It is for this reason that I write to you, as it is this forum, "the all of you), with the means, the duty, and hopefully the will to recognize, correct, and mitigate the damage that this matter and its aftermath has caused and will continue to cause if left un-addressed. "Damage? What Damage?), some will ask; though it will be only those with their head in the sand or a stake in the status quo. "Falling stars... a few disgruntled participants); a Google Search might suggest was the problem. By now, in the minds of some, the firing of Joe Kish is little more than a distant memory. "A difficult situation... a problem solved... we did the best we could!) On the contrary! We did not do the best we could and it is not in my mind too late to fully communicate my feelings in this matter as well as my concerns for the NTA. Mark of course, would be commended for accepting responsibility and for taking the heat. To be sure, some would applaud his decisive judgement and dug in heels. The truth is that this decision demanded more than the modicum of consideration it received. Good Judgement requires that we consider the ramifications of our actions; especially those not readily apparent. Good judgement requires an examination of our motives; and the motives of those giving us counsel. Good judgement demands that we seek out and consider differing views; before important decisions are made and set in stone. It is my view that Mark failed to give this matter the requisite consideration as to all the above. This decision was not good for the NTA and I am hopeful that in the following and in hindsight you will allow that further consideration was warranted.

Rather than accepting the responsibility for firing Mr. Kish, Mark should have shouldered the responsibility for hiring him! Mr. Kish's knowledge, expertise, and accomplishments are no less well known in the taxidermy industry than are his unabashed style and proclivity to call them as he see's them. To hire a National Level Competition Judge who may in fact be best known for being independent and outspoken, and then claim to have fired him for making what some might perceive to be "innapropriate comments) is on its face and at best ludicrous! This is not good for the NTA!

When the supposed "problem) was brought to Mark's attention, a primary consideration should have been the NTA's obligation to Mr. Kish and to his integrity, good name and reputation. Instead of firing him, the President should have been defending Mr. Kish's right, and the rightful expectation of every NTA Competition Judge, to be uncensored and unbridled in their work and to be free from the surreptitious snooping of those who would abuse their NTA positions and unrestricted access to the competition area. This is not good for the NTA!

Mr. Kish was fully certified by the NTA as a competent and qualified competition judge. Regardless of Mark's personal opinions, or the opinions of other individuals for that matter, Joe Kish was duly nominated and selected in accordance with specified NTA procedures and thereafter published as the 2004 Large Mammal and Gamehead Judge. It is presumed that the "selection committee) gave their assignment sufficient import, due diligence, and serious consideration before nominating the candidates and making their final selections. Once this official NTA selection process was completed, Mark's duty and responsibility was to honor the committee's deliberations and to abide by their selections. This is not good for the NTA.

The very issue of Outlook that announced "The 2004 NTA Competition Judges) made great hay of the built-in fairness, impartiality, and the democratic nature of the NTA Judges Selection Procedure. The article described the entire process including a careful screeening of candidates and all the criteria the committee members considered before a secret ballot determined the "lucky individuals.) Mark Wilson's unilateral decision to remove Joe Kish completely disregarded and effectively circumvented the highly touted NTA Judges Selection process and in so doing completely undermined its spirit, letter, and intent. This is not good for the NTA!

As opposed to the singular justification cited by Mark Wilson, for the decision to remove Mr. Kish (i.e. the now famous scoresheet comment "Poor choice of mannikin - See Judge!); wherein Mr. Kish plainly extends and welcomes the opportunity to meet with and discuss his opinions with the competitor), the real harm arising out of this incident is not in Mr. Kish's comment but in the apparent willingness of some NTA officials to jeopardize the integrity of NTA competitions with inappropriate behind-the-scenes activity, personal agendas, and situational ethics. This is not good for the NTA!

Sadly, Mr. Kish's removal smacks of exactly "the problem) Mark claims to have been trying to avoid. That is, bowing to "supplier pressures and complaints) be they real or imagined. It was Mark's decision to remove Joe Kish, and the actions of other NTA officials, that have in fact "fueled the fires and the dirty little rumors) that NTA Competitions are controlled and influenced with back room decisions on the basis of supplier pressures and loyalties! The unprecedented removal of an eminently qualified judge in the midst of an NTA competition, because a particular supplier or sculptor might be offended by a scoresheet comment, is a perfect example of the NTA bowing to supplier pressure and is on its face, evidence of inappropriate behind the scenes activity. This is not good for NTA!

What occurred on the " shortly after the event can only be described as distasteful and disturbing. Such internet insults, hurtful remarks, and rude attempts, as were made by Mr. Roof, to discredit, humiliate, and degrade anyone posting a different opinion on this matter brought discredit upon the NTA and did nothing to address this significant and legitimate controversey. It is ironic, though a sad commentary, that it would be the afformentioned and former NTA Director leading the charge to justify a firing over a poor choice of words! The fact that these posts were the "un-official) remarks of an Ex- NTA Director does not lessen their chilling effect nor remove the perception that they represented the NTA's position and attitude. This is not good for the NTA!

The NTA leadership, individually and collectively, must publicly repudiate and disavow such rudeness and personal attacks, especially when dished out on behalf of NTA position or policy. To join in them, or to remain silent, is extremely short sighted and counter productive to the well being and the integrity of the NTA. Such distateful tactics do not occur in a vacuum and the example cited above is not an isolated event. The routine has become commonplace and predictable and is seen by many as the NTA's method of choice to discredit or otherwise silence anyone voicing a different view. This is not good for the NTA!

After Jan Van Hoesen and anyone else with a differing view had been rudely shouted down, came the NTA President's "official version of the facts). Mark's post, while a bit more civil, raised many questions and left a great deal unsaid amid much in the way of self justification and after-the-fact validations. What was not so "Self Evident), as his post headlined, was the complete truth and chronology of the events leading up to the removal of Mr. Kish. Events of which, I will allow, Mark Wilson may or may not have been fully aware. It is for this reason, that I extend to him the benefit of the doubt and refrain from alleging him to have deliberately misrepresented the facts or to have participated in activities I believe to be more detrimental to the well being of the NTA and the integrity of NTA competitions.

At best, Mark's official version of the facts misleads the reader both in content and chronology. Taken in concert with Mr. Roof's version of events, those shot from the hip via email and uncontested in the president's post, it was Dino Hughon (Hugon) who first discovered "the problem) and, only after confiding in Mr. Roof and receiving his counsel, took "the problem) to Mark who then unilaterally elected to fire Mr. Kish. This scenario erroneously implies there were no others involved and that no opposing views were heard on the matter until after the firing. Both untrue! In fact, there were a number of other individuals involved early on and in deed objections and opposing views had been raised before Mr. Kish was fired.

The involvement of others becomes an important issue in this matter and relates directly to the obvious question raised by many NTA members and non-members alike both during and after the show. That is, "Where was the Competition Committee during all this?) Official responses ranged from the flat out "NO!) provided by Mark Wilson when asked by a member if the competition committee had been consulted; to the somewhat confusing rambling, contained in one of Mr. Roof's tyrades, that seemed to question the very existence of an NTA Competition Committee. I found this comment to be somewhat strange and I was relieved to find the NTA Competition Rules still replete with references to the NTA Competition Committee and its functions. Although we generally performed those functions, it is unclear to me at this point, if there was a more formally constituted and identifiable Competition Committee other than Dino, RJ, myself and Gail; who's namebadges actually said something more like Competion Operations. If there was an official 2004 Competition Committee other than the likes of us, I would appreciate knowing who was on that committee. Maybe it's in the minutes somewhere? Or it may be that the NTA Competition Committee, like the NTA Judges Selection Committee, is nothing more than a sham to be publicized and relied upon when it suits a particular purpose but is ignored and disregarded when it doesn't. This is not good for the NTA.

The fact of the matter is that the "competition committee), (such as it was in my view anyway and described above), was indeed involved in the matter in the early hours of Friday morning. The "problem) was brought to my attention by Dino Hughon (Hugon) who came to me at the computer and asked for the name of the competitor who had entered "Entry number so and so.) I told Dino that the TAXIdata software was designed to hide that information during the judging phase of the competition and asked why he needed the name. He then told me that he thought we had "a big problem) and that the sheep had received an extremely high score and he wanted to know if the piece had perhaps been entered by a friend of Joe Kish. He then informed me that Mr. Kish had given the little moose calf a perfect score of 100 adding that a perfect score was "only attainable by the Creator!) He tried next to have me go look at a lifesize lion entry and tell him what ribbon I thought it should have. I was by then, truly taken aback and told Dino that while the lion was certainly dramatic I had no idea what a close inspection might reveal and the ribbon awarded was not for us to decide. Dino then told me that he had looked closely at the lion and that the 75 that it had scored would be an insult to the competitor. Then it was on to the gameheads and inconsistent hog scores. It was of course by then apparent that Dino had an agenda and was looking for support of his views. I told Dino that in my opinion, he was overstepping his bounds and was headed down a road that had only negative consequences for all concerned. It was at this time that RJ Meyer entered the competition room and was set upon by Dino with the same littany of negative comments regarding Mr. Kish's judging of the competition. When RJ had heard enough he stated to Dino in no uncertain terms that he too believed Dino was going where he didn't belong and that he should "Let it go!) I cannot speak for RJ, but I personally thought the matter was closed and heard nothing more until learning after the fact that Mr. Kish had been fired by Mark Wilson. Initially, I thought that RJ and I were the first ones that Dino had approached with "the problem) that he had identified and that it was only after this early AM discussion with RJ and me, that he continued on in search of support for his opinions and at some point in time found it in the person of George Roof. But now, I'm not so sure. It may be that the decision to remove Mr. Kish had already been made by the time Dino came to RJ and me and he was merely trying to bring us on board. It may also be, and in fact it has been reported to me by one of the principals, that the wheels to remove Mr. Kish were set in motion even earlier by another NTA Official, heretofor unmentioned, who wanted Mr. Kish removed. This particular NTA official shall remain unnamed in this account so as not to violate the source's request for confidentiality. In the long run, it doesn't really matter. Suffice it to say that, like other important omissions, this other NTA Official's name or his involvement was never mentioned in any of the accounts provided by Mr. Roof or Mr. Wilson. This is not good for the NTA!

Mark's official post did claim rethorically, that no one had alleged that the final judging of the competition was anything but fair. I would reply by saying that the firing of Mr. Kish in the middle of an NTA competition was anything but fair to him and to his good name; it was anything but fair to the NTA competitors who came expecting to be judged and critiqued by Joe Kish and to gain the benefit of his knowledge and his opinions; it was then anything but fair to Dan Gill who was thrust into the unenviable position that he was; and it was also anything but fair to the large mammal and gamehead winners and ex-winners who competed under a cloud of back room decisions. This is not good for the NTA!

I must also speak to the issue of integrity. I will not dignify by replying directly to the inuendos of Mr. Roof's and other "proxy posts) concerning "privacy issues) and competitors somehow knowing their scores. If these remarks were directed at me, I resent them! To those of you who know me, or have worked with me in any number of taxidermy competitions, you will need no explanation nor question my integrity. To others I will only say that at all times relevent to this event, I was personally aware of only two scores in the competition; namely, the Kish scores that were reported to me as being too high or too low by Dino Hughon (Hugon) that Friday morning. If you're looking for leaks from the competition room, you better look elsewhere.

I do thank those of of you who made a point of telling me you hoped I'd be bring(ing) my system to Sioux Falls in 2005. As I said then, my current contract was expiring in Huntsville but that I would be happy to submit a new proposal to the NTA board. Under the circumstances, I must say that I recognize the fact that I may have just talked myself out of further involvement in NTA computer operations. And that's OK if that's the way it is. The(These) issues need to get fixed and they are far more important than whether I'll be part running the computers at the next show. That decision will be up to you, the NTA Officers and Directors, and on whether you decide to truly recognize and address these important issues or simply decide to circle the wagons around this bad decision and it's aftermath.

Of what I have written, I know to be true!
I look forward to receiving your personal and/or official replies.

Tom McNeal

PLEASE NOTE! This copy has been edited for spelling and clarity as shown.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
As stated above, I have never received an official reply to my letter from Mark Wilson or the NTA Board. The purpose of my letter and the forum chosen for the airing of my views was specifically selected so as to not discredit or embarress anyone publicly but rather to give the NTA Board the opportunity to recognize, stand up, and properly address these important matters. Instead, my letter was "respectfully read and considered by the board) and then dismissed and described by the "powers that be) as the mistaken opinions of a disgruntled "paid employee).

I add here with emphasis, that it degrades the NTA and those who would refer to Gail and me, or to the dedicated and talented individuals who would judge our annual NTA competitions as merely "hired help) to be hired and fired at the will or whim of Mark Wilson. Were it not for our personal dedications and commitments to the NTA and NTA competitions, none of us would ever consider doing what we do at these shows for the modest renumeration received.

Since the winter board meeting, and more recently at the World Show in Springfield, I learned that many of the current NTA Directors supported my opinions of events at the 2004 competition and were surprised to hear that I'd received no official reply or contact from the NTA and more so that I had no contract yet in place for Sioux Falls. Many of these individuals also asked that I submit my 2005 proposal as I had in the past along with any suggested remedies for the problems occurring at the 2004 competition.

Accordingly, as in previous years, I submitted my proposal for the 2005 NTA Competition to Tony Finazzo, NTA Competition Chairman with copies provided to the NTA Directors. Unlike in previous years, and because of the inappropriate conduct of certain NTA Officials during and after the 2004 NTA Competition, my proposal was made contingent upon the conditions outlined in my cover letter to the board. (Please see copy below)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
April 7, 2005

The National Taxidermists Association

Attn: NTA Board of Directors

Re: On-Site Computer Operations: 2005 NTA Competition - Sioux Falls, SD


Dear NTA Director,

While I have as yet received no official reply from Mark Wilson or the NTA regarding my letter of February 1, 2005, I am happy to have had the opportunity to discuss the matter and the issues raised therein with a good many of the currently elected NTA Directors. A sufficient number of you have further asked that I submit my proposal for professional services in Sioux Falls along with my suggested remedies for the problems arising out of the 2004 NTA competition. Accordingly, I respectfully submit the attached proposal directly to you, the currently elected NTA Board of Directors, to consider and act upon as you see fit.

With both a personal and a professional stake in the fairness and integrity of NTA competitions, I find it necessary to make this 2005 proposal contingent upon the conditions 1 through 6 below. These conditions are intended to repair and restore the integrity of the NTA and NTA competitions; both of which were called into serious question and placed in jeopardy by the actions of certain NTA Officials both during and after the 2004 show.


1. Prior to the 2005 NTA Convention in Sioux Falls...

MARK WILSON SHALL APOLOGIZE TO JOE KISH for the lack of consideration shown to him by the NTA, for the inappropriate actions of NTA Officials in the NTA competition room, and for his unilateral decision to remove Mr. Kish.

MARK WILSON SHALL APOLOGIZE TO JAN VAN HOESEN for the lack of consideration shown to her by the NTA and the inappropriate actions of NTA Officials who attempted to publicly discredit and humiliate her and for implying her version of events were "tarnished by fantasy) when in reality every fact stated in Mrs. Van Hoesen's internet post concerning the firing of Mr. Kish was essentially true and correct.


2. The NTA JUDGES SELECTION PROCEDURE, as set forth in the September/October 2003 issue of NTA's Outlook magazine, shall be strictly adhered to for all future NTA Competitions. All inquiries and vetting of potential Judges shall take place before the final selections are made by secret ballot. Once completed, the committee's selection of Judges shall be final and may be changed or amended only by a majority vote of the full NTA Board of Directors. All individuals participating in the annual Judges Selection process shall be clearly identified and recognized for their efforts at the time their final selections are published.

3. THE NTA COMPETITION COMMITTEE shall be clearly identifiable and fully accountable for the conduct, fairness, and integrity of the annual NTA Competition. The Competition Committee shall be comprised of those NTA Officials/Members specifically assigned to working in the competition room. In addition to myself and Gail with primary responsibility for computer operations, competition data entry and scoring, there would preferably be three additional individuals assigned respectively with the following responsibilities:

a) Overall organization, logistics, and presentation of the competition room

b) Providing assistance and support to the competitors and ensuring the correct placement of their entries

c) Providing assistance and support to the competition Judges and coordinating their selections of special and major awards

Once the competition is underway, "The NTA Competition Committee will resolve any questions arising from the NTA competition and their decision will be final.) as stated in Rule Number 1 of the NTA's General Rules for All Competitions.

4. As soon as possible after competition entry registration is closed, each Judge will be provided with a "Judge's Worksheet) with which the Judge can track individual scores, remarks, and ribbon placement within their own respective divisions and categories of responsibility. The JUDGE'S SCORESHEETS AND WRITTEN CRITIQUES however, when completed and turned over by the judge to indicate so, will be picked up and brought to the computer operations area for entry of the competition scores and processing. Completed scoresheets will be available at any time, for review and/or changes, upon the request of the Judge who scored the entry.

5. RULE 21 OF THE NTA'S GENERAL RULES FOR ALL COMPETITIONS shall be ammended to read as follows:

Once Judging begins, the competition area will be closed to everyone except the competition judges, the competition committee, and any required competition room volunteers. Whenever possible or feasible, competition room volunteers shall not have an entry in the competition. When required, special guests or those individuals making special award selections will be accompanied and assisted in the competition room by members of the competition committee only.

6. RULE 22 OF THE NTA'S GENERAL RULES FOR ALL COMPETITIONS shall be ammended to read as follows:

If an instance arises where a judging problem occurs during the convention which cannot be resolved by the competition committee, the problem will be brought to the attention of the entire NTA Board of Directors who will decide the matter by a majority vote. Any such actions taken by the Board of Directors shall be publicly disclosed and fully explained to the NTA membership as soon as possible.

As in prior years, I will need a copy of the most recent NTA membership data file in the same format as has been traditionally provided by NTA Headquarters. This data can be sent via email from NTA HQ just before packing up for the show. Please note! I have not been advised of, nor am I aware of, any changes or additions to the NTA competition divisions, categories, rules, or major awards since the 2004 NTA competition. Accordingly, no such TAXIdata system changes are anticipated for this year's competition and no such charges are included in this proposal.

Respectfully and sincerely submitted,

Tom McNeal

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There followed a number of email inquiries and exchanges with NTA Directors. Please see the examples copied below.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Dear Friend,

Thank you for your considered reply and for the personal thoughts that you shared. I appreciate them! I too place great value in our friendship and I know that will remain unchanged regardless of the state of NTA affairs. I read your email carefully and then slept soundly on my written reply. I am not interested in leverage or gaining more favorable terms. My interest is only in the betterment of the NTA and the integrity of NTA competitions.

I will allow that Mark's unilateral firing of Mr. Kish may have been within the realm of executive privelege but that does not mean he shouldn't be held accountable for his actions. Especially when this "executive decision" was nothing more than a clumsy cover up for the inexcusable actions of the other NTA Officials who took it upon themselves to review all the competition scoresheets and when they didn't agree with Mr. Kish's scores or comments, conspired to remove him from the competition and replace him with a judge who's results were more to their liking. If you can't see anything wrong with that, I can only say that I am disappointed. Such actions strike at the very heart of fair and unbiased competition.

I must also tell you that I DO NOT hold the entire NTA board accountable for Mark's decision or for the conduct of the other NTA Officials who abused their positions and unrestricted access to the competition room. To do so would be to ignore the fact that the majority of the NTA Board was left out of that loop and the back room as were 2/3 of the "competition committee" who had a different view. The NTA Board must be held accountable though, in my view, should you fail to recognize the damage done and hold those individuals accountable for their actions.

If the majority of the NTA Board shares the views you've expressed and thereby approve of such conduct under the guise of "executive privelege", then so be it. I can accept that. Regrettably, I must accept it as I cannot in good conscience be part of a competition that condones such actions as what occurred at the 2004 NTA competition.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
After serious and difficult reflection, I have come to the conclusion that Dino's request for confidentiality and ultimately his credibilty deserve zero consideration.

In light of the various and conflicting statements personally made to me, to you, and to others, Dino's motives, different stories, and prior emails should be seen clearly for what they are; inconsistent and continued attempts to shift the blame, hide his own improper conduct, and cover the actions and complicity of other NTA Officials.

Accordingly I offer to you the following exchange of email, between Dino and myself, for your personal consideration and that of the NTA board should you see it as either instructive or relevant in the current matter.

Tom McNeal

P.S. I tried to send a copy of this email to Dino at the last address I had for him ( My AOL would not allow the mail to go out saying that is not a known member. Please forward a copy to Dino if you are able to do so.

In a message dated 7/16/2004 5:17:13 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Tom & Gail,

I want to thank you for all the great work that you guys do. Most of these board members, and the general members, have no idea what you guys do with that computer. Since I'm obviously not on the board next year I won't be able to work with you two, but it was great.

I wish this whole Joe Kish thing would have blown over. I do like you post on Taxi-Net, as well as Bill Yox's. I wish they would have used the alternative but they didn't.

Just keep this letter between us - I don't want any more flak about the Joe Kish incident. Once again, thank you.

Hi Dino,
Thank you for your kind words. They are much appreciated. Gail and I have always enjoyed working with you too.

Unfortunately for all concerned, I believe the "last chance" for the Joe Kish incident to have "blown over" was early Friday morning; right after you first brought the "Joe Kish problems" to my attention and then subsequently to the attention of RJ. You will recall that we both advised you at the time, that you were "Headed down a road" with no good outcomes and that you should "Let it go!" I can only assume that, for whatever reasons, you chose not to let it go and apparently sought out others who would validate the problem. It was reportedly George Roof that you confided in next and from there, all the chips began to fall as they did. Again, a very unfortunate chain of events for all concerned.

I would welcome your thoughts on the matter and hearing your version of the events subsequent to those described above. As I indicated in my forum post, I will be writing to the NTA on the matter but will honor your request for confidentiality.



In a message dated 7/17/2004 10:38:36 AM Central Daylight Time, writes:
Once again, Tom, I know you'll keep this confidential. Before I had talked to you or RJ about this, this is what got it going was Frankie Thompson. So George is out of it , and basically you know what happened from there.
I had no choice but to follow the presidential directive even though RJ says I didn't, I can't see in the rules where could havd told him forget it, and that's what I kind of thought when they approached me and took me out to the back room.
I've been a bit disillusioned by the whole experience. Unfortunately it keeps eating at me every day.
Once again, I hope you do run the computer for next year. At least I know my mount will be entered properly. And, you'll get to meet my family. They're coming and I'm actually going to enjoy a convention.
I hope your daughter finds a good house down there in the San Joaquin.

A P.S. to Dino
It's time for you to stand up, man up, and own up instead of just trying to cover it up. Until you do, you have no right to expect or ask anyone for "confidentiality". I must admit you gave me a pretty good song and dance at the world show and I thought you were ready to stand up and do the right thing. Now, I understand you're singing yet a different tune and have your wife out campaigning against my proposal.

So which version of events is true Dino? The one you emailed to me shortly after the show but didn't want anyone to know about? That's when you blamed it all on Mark and Frankie Thompson claiming "they" took you out to the back room and you were only following orders? Or was it you who first "discovered the problem" and then conspired with Mr. Roof and Mr. Wilson to remove Mr. Kish? Or is it the version that you later told others leading up to, and again to me personally at the World Show where the principals were Mark Wilson and Greg Crain who had gone over all the score sheets and wanted Joe Kish fired? Or was it, as can be found between the lines of George Roof and as you recently told others, that Mr. Kish's firing had more to do with his being late to the competition and certain of his gamehead scores than any comment he may have made on a scoresheet. And who if anyone, besides yourself, George and Mark, was really involved in the "getting rid of Mr. Kish" in the midst of competition? Who exactly was it that "took you out to the back room?" And when exactly did the back room meeting take place? Was it before or after a clear majority of the "competition (room) committee" had disagreed with your actions and your agenda? Can you clear all that up?

It's time for you to stand up Dino and get all this out of the back room, hold the participants accountable for improper conduct during an NTA competition, and to restore some integrity to the NTA and NTA Competitions.

I welcome your comments or your explanation!
Tom McNeal

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Subsequently, following a number of other email exchanges, and at the request of Tony Finazzo, I amended my cover letter's "Condition 1) as per the following email:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In a message dated 4/14/2005 4:17:45 PM Central Daylight Time, FINAZDUCKS writes:
...Tom I want to urge you to change just one part of your proposal. Even if the board voted 12-0 to accept your proposal, how could we demand that another person apologizes or resign.
Hi Tony,

Once again I appreciate your personal thoughts on this matter and your committment to the betterment of the NTA. WIth those same thoughts in mind, and in light of your request that I amend my proposal (highlighted above) , I send you the following as we discussed on the phone.

In lieu of Conditon 1 (as stated in my Letter of Transmittal), I would accept the following:

1. Prior to the 2005 NTA Convention in Sioux Falls...

THE NTA BOARD SHALL APOLOGIZE TO JOE KISH for the lack of consideration shown to him by the NTA, for the inappropriate actions of NTA Officials in the NTA competition room, and for the decision to remove Mr. Kish.

THE NTA BOARD SHALL APOLOGIZE TO JAN VAN HOESEN for the lack of consideration shown to her by the NTA and the inappropriate actions of NTA Officials who attempted to publicly discredit and humiliate her and for implying her version of events were "tarnished by fantasy) when in reality every fact stated in Mrs. Van Hoesen's internet post concerning the firing of Mr. Kish was essentially true and correct.

OR, ALTERNATIVELY, THE NTA BOARD SHALL RESIGN IN PROTEST of the inappropriate actions of NTA Officials during and after the 2004 NTA Competition.

The apologies shall be made in writing on the NTA letterhead and posted as well on the NTA website for the duration of Mark Wilson's term as NTA president.

The NTA shall further acknowledge that the review of Mr. Kish's scores and comments, by NTA Officials during the 2004 competition, was inappropriate and such conduct will not be condoned or allowed at future NTA competitions.

Please provide copies of this email to all concerned.

Tom McNeal
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It was, I understand, about this time that a motion was made by Tony Finazzo and seconded by Brenda DuVall that the NTA Board consider and vote on accepting my proposal and conditions as amended in the email quoted above. My conditions require nothing more from the NTA than a showing of common decency and respect for others in all matters and that NTA Competitions will be conducted in accordance with the published and prescribed NTA Rules, Regulations, and Procedures. Nothing more, nothing less.

While I have not heard directly from Mark Wilson, I have been made aware of some of his personal opinions and position(s) on these issues and HIS authority. I offer them here (interspersed with my replies) as sent in a recent email to all members of the NTA Board.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To All Concerned,

In light of recent emails and events that have come to my attention, I will offer my reply to Mark Wilson's comments (below in blue/bold) for your collective consideration.

Tony, this matter does not require a vote by the board. It falls under your routine authority to hire the data entry person as you are the person that I have put in charge of the competition room. It also fall under my authority as I am the one who appointed you. Hiring the data entry person is a standard matter of business. Simply put, Tom McNeal will agree to do the job or he won't, and we will find someone else.

Whether or not the instant matter requires a vote of the board, in the past proposals for the use of my software and services have always been considered and approved upon by the NTA Board. In recent years, they have been submitted to the Competition Chairman who would present them at the NTA Winter Board meeting. My last such proposal was transmitted via RJ Mejer to the 2003 NTA WInter Board meeting. That proposal was accepted by the NTA Board and covered the contracts for both the 2003 and 2004 shows. Like the specific steps outlined in the highly touted NTA Judge's Selection Procedure and the specific authority vested in the NTA Competition Committee, matters in question are presumably only put to the NTA Board for a vote when the outcome is certain or it suits a particular agenda.

As to authority? Mark's opinion is pretty well summed up in his own words. Mark believes that his presidential authority allows him to operate the NTA as he see's fit. Then, the authority of his "Competition Chairman" derives solely from Mark's personal appointment to that position; presumably, to be un-appointed just as easily when and if Mark sees fit. As the Competition Chairman, (Mark's version of a "one-man competition committee"), you can do whatever you want as long as it's OK with Mark. Hmmm! Sounds a lot like DIno at last year's show!

In its wisdom however, the NTA has enacted bylaws, rules, regulations, and procedures setting forth the manner and conduct of its business and its taxidermy competitions. These rules clearly contemplate and establish that certain matters will be considered and governed by committee clearly established for a particular purpose and thus remove from any one individual, utter discretion and complete decision making authority.

As you know from the board meeting, I have always separated these two issues. Tom and Gail have always done a great job for the NTA and I would like to see them continue to do so for many years to come. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions however that is just what they should remain, opinions. Friendship with Tom McNeal or any other person, or lack of friendship, should have no bearing on this matter.

Firstly, Mark is less than clear as to which two issues he is trying to separate. If he's referring to keeping friendships separate from professional relationships, I couldn't agree more. The friendships I've made and highly value through my long time association with the NTA, should not and will not affect my personal integrity or ethical conduct. The friends that I've been fortunate to have met through the NTA will already know that to be true. If however, Mark is referring to what he describes as my personal opinions of the unethical conduct of the 2004 NTA competition vs my proposal for the 2004 show, he could not be further from the truth. The conditions set forth in my proposal's cover letter are in fact the soul of my proposal. They are the minimums for restoring any level of integrity to the NTA and NTA competition. The implementation of these conditions are not separate issues supposedly dealt with but rather pre-requisite to my consideration of being any part of future NTA Competitions.

I agree that under most circumstances the judges chairman, or anyone else, should not routinely follow any judge around or review score sheets. However in this matter from what has been reported to me, other judges in the room were actually the ones who raised the concerns and instructed Dino to look at the sheets after watching Mr. Kish flying through his judging of mounts, after arriving and starting late, without actually doing any real inspection of the mounts. I have heard from most of the judges that were in the room at the time and they have to a man thanked me for what the NTA did. So no apology is warranted for NTA actions. Dan Gill also sent me a thank you e-mail after the convention and said he was honored to have been selected and to have filled in under difficult circumstances. Perhaps you should call Jeff Morning and get the opinion of another judge that was actually in the room. So to have a policy that the NTA judges chairman never under any circumstances review or look at score sheets is not a good idea. Perhaps stating that only the judges chairman has this authority is what is actually needed. It is the duty of the judges chairman to ensure that judges are in the room and doing what appears to be a proper job. If a judge was reported to be highly intoxicated, for example, it would also be the duty of the judges chairman to make sure that all competitors were treated fairly by taking appropriate action. You know that it is not the intent of the NTA to ever influence judging, only to make sure that it is always fair and completed in a proper manner. When Joe Kish was replaced I did not direct Dino to hire any specific replacement, what I told him was to hire a qualified judge. It was only later that I learned who he had chosen. For Tom McNeal to allege that this incident occurred for any other reason than to ensure fairness to all competitors is absurd and insulting to the NTA.

Most circumstances? This is situational ethics at its best. We supposedly go through this detailed and specified NTA procedure to select the top talents in our industry. The NTA Judges are chosen for their personal knowledge and acclaimed expertise in a given area of competition. The NTA tells us they have been duly nominated, discussed, fully investigated, and voted upon by a secret ballot of the NTA Judges Selection Committee. (see Outlook , Spetember/October 2003) The secret is, none of that happened for the 2004 NTA competition. In this case, it was Dino Hugon, who was Mark's "One-Man Judges Selection Committee". Once the National Competition has started and Judging is underway, it's beyond Dino's authority, or anyone elses authority, to start reviewing scores and comments and to set out to replace the Judge when they are not to his liking. Why is it that Mark WIlson to this day is still unclear as to the true involvement of those involved in the firing of Mr. Kish. Prefacing his latest remarks with the phrase, "From what has been reported to me... Now it seems, it was other the other Judges who "raised the concerns'. Then more disparaging innuendo about Mr Kish's arriving late, flying though the judging and providing no real inspection of the entries. This is the stuff of personal opinion and not whether the NTA competition rules establish and set forth the authority of the NTA Competition Committee. Second hand hearsay? Rumor and innuendo? Hidden agendas and loyalties! Egos and jelousies! There's as much of that going on between judges as there is between competitors! No matter who the individuals or what their motives, at a point midway through the competition, the "other judge" should have been instructed by Dino to mind his own business and return to his own judging.

In this case the NTA defended and protected the reputation of every taxidermist that had a entry in that room. Everyone knows that the system and the scores were all properly performed and fair. This would not be the case if Joe Kish was not relieved of his duties.

In this case the NTA (that is Mark WIlson by executive decree) defended and protected the reputation of the NTA Officials who were derelict in their duties and abused their NTA positions during the 2004 NTA NAtional Competition. Further, in doing so they have attempted to attack and damage the reputation of Mr. Kish and anyone else with a differing view of these events. No body knows that the system and the scores were all properly performed and fair. For that we can only look to the words and between the lines of those who've weighed in on the matter. One obvious fact is that the firing of Mr. Kish had little to do with his comment about a poor choice of mannikin though that's the hatrack the presidential miter was hung upon. By now it's clear that comment was just an excuse; an ignoble attempt to justify his firing for reasons more to do with a late arrival, the opinions of others, perceived dilengence, time spent, etc... Oh yes and differing opinions with Mr. Kish's scores and ribbon placements! To be sure!

Were the results of the 2004 NTA competition altered and the judging influenced by the actions of NTA Officials during the competition? You bet they were. Was this fair to any of the NTA competitors who were affected? You bet it wasn't. No you decide! As I've stated since my earliest comments and writings on this matter...

The "problem) was brought to my attention by Dino Hughon (Hugon) who came to me at the computer and asked for the name of the competitor who had entered "Entry number so and so.) I told Dino that the TAXIdata software was designed to hide that information during the judging phase of the competition and asked why he needed the name. He then told me that he thought we had "a big problem) and that the sheep had received an extremely high score and he wanted to know if the piece had perhaps been entered by a friend of Joe Kish. He then informed me that Mr. Kish had given the little moose calf a perfect score of 100 adding that a perfect score was "only attainable by the Creator!) He tried next to have me go look at a lifesize lion entry and tell him what ribbon I thought it should have. I was by then, truly taken aback and told Dino that while the lion was certainly dramatic I had no idea what a close inspection might reveal and the ribbon awarded was not for us to decide. Dino then told me that he had looked closely at the lion and that the 75 that it had scored would be an insult to the competitor. Then it was on to the gameheads and inconsistent hog scores.

Is it Dino's opinions of the gamehead and mammal scoring (or the opinion of Mark WIlson by proxy) that should now drive the NTA's competition and the ultimate determination of the 2004 National Champions. If you don't think that's what happened, also consider George Roof's own words on the matter...

I saw all the raw scoresheets. Dino is a personal friend of mine and confided in me that he saw a big problem. My jaw almost hit the floor when I looked closely. Of "x" number of boar mounts, ONLY TWO had received a score higher than 82 while most had received 60's and 70's. (Now people, I don't compete, but I know good work when I see it. These were NOT trash mounts and there was some exquisite work done here getting scores of 73.)... Now the result was that one of those mounts that had an initial score of 76 ended up gaining 22 points during the rescoring and ultimately won the competition

It is somewhat ironic that I too received an email from Dan Gill shortly after the 2004 NTA competition. And it said a great deal about the legitimacy and the prestige of the NTA's 2004 National Champions. Dan has recently and graciously allowed that I forward his email for consideration by the NTA board in this present matter but for obvious reasons asks that our communication does not become any more public. (I ask you all to honor this request!)

In a message dated 7/12/2004 9:30:31 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:
Hi Tom, Where to start.......
Dan Gill
and more recently...
In a message dated 4/13/2005 10:43:25 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:
Hi Tom,
Dan Gill
All who know my feelings also know I hold no ill will toward Dan Gill. I have the utmost respect for Dan in every way and I am sure respects what I am doing for the integrity of NTA competitions. Dan Gill should never have been placed in this prediciment and was just as much a victim as anyone else involved. Of course he was thrilled and proud to have been asked to "fill in on short notice!" Who wouldn't have been? The fact is that Dan had only been certified as an NTA Judge for less than a year and published as only offering judging and seminars on fish. I am sure that Dan did the very best he could under difficult circumstances but had no business being thrust into judging mammals and gameheads at the Nationals. I am also apparent that Dan recieved the input and advice of others on his evaluations and scoring. This was not fair to Dan Gill or to any of the NTA competitors who competed under this cloud of backroom shenanigans. This is certainly not the way to run the National Competition.

Tom McNeal also apparently still believes that there is a competition committee. This is not true, as the only people who can make a decision are the competition chairman at the direction of the NTA president. This is the way it has always been. Everyone else is just there as help. Tom and Gail were paid help who were actually employees of the NTA hired to do data entry work and nothing more. And the competition chairman is not in charge of the judges, the judges chairman is.

Mark does have this one part correct. I do believe there is an NTA COmpetition Committee. Like any other NTA member or competitor, I can only go by what is clearly published by the NTA in regard to the conduct of its competitions. The NTA Competition Rules, Regulations, and Procedures are replete with references to the NTA Competition Committee and Judges Committee along with their duties, authority, and responsibilities. Now it could be that there was some secret NTA "executive session" or a little known vote of the NTA board that abolished these committees placing their authority and decision making powers under the exclusive executive power of the NTA president. That's what Mark WIlson would have us all believe. These "committee" powers are really all his powers. Of course, he has no other choice since backing himself into that corner by ignoring and over-riding the protest and ethical objections of a clear majority of the 2004 Competition Committee in this matter. The NTA has set up these specific committees to avoid and protect its members and competitors from such unethical conduct as what occurred at last year's competition and placing too much power in too few individuals.

What should happen this year is that all non-essential people should be kept out of the room, perhaps including the data entry people, who can easily be set up just outside of the door. Your careful control of the room this year will also help make sure that unauthorized people do not look at score sheets.

What should happen this year is that the NTA acknowledge the inappropriate conduct of NTA Officials during the 2004 competition thereby bringing discredit upon the NTA and damaging the integrity of NTA competitions. The NTA should resolve to publicly establish, clearly identify, and honor the decision making authority of all the commmittees set forth in NTA publications. In short the NTA should follow the rules it has carefully established in its wisdom to avoid the problems that occurred at last years show. The conditions outlined in my proposal's cover letter are intended to do just that. Nothing more nothing less.

Please also consider the following. Like the Judges who put their own expertise and reputations on the line to judge our shows, if it weren't for our dedication and commitment to the NTA and the annual NTA competition, we wouldn't even consider doing what we do for the modest renumeration provided. Furthermore, it degrades Mark Wilson, the NTA and any of those NTA Officials who would view or refer to our NTA Competition Judges, or Gail and me as only the "hired help" and "paid employees" to be hired and fired at will or whim.

There's more to ethics than what's published as our Code in the by-monthly issue of Outlook. In addition to our condemnation of those who would steal another's sculpture, mannikin, or other creative work, ethics demands that once NTA competition is underway, our competition Judge's should have the rightful expectation that they will be unbridled and uncensored in their work and their scores, placements, and comments should be considered private and only between the judge and the competitor.

Likewise, all NTA members and competitors should have the rightful expectation that, once competition is underway, it is the Judges chosen by the NTA Judges Selection Committee who should decide the results of NTA competitions and not be subject to inappropriate behind the scenes activity and the back room decisions of NTA Officials as what took place at the 2004 show.

It is unethical and detrimental to integrity NTA competitions for Dino Hugon, George Roof, Mark Wilson, (other Judges), or anyone else to be reviewing scoresheets and passing their own personal judgement on a judge's scores or comments while NTA competition is underway. It is also unethical to have fired Mr. Kish because of tardiness,or because one or more NTA Officials didn't agree with his scores and ribbon placements; and then claim he was fired over a poor choice of words. Once Mr Kish was allowed to start his judging of the competition it was unethical to question his integrity and subject him to any additional scrutiny, supervision, or reasons to fire him.

I urge you to re-read my letter to the NTA winter board meeting and to then consider with an open mind, my proposal for Sioux Falls. This is not blackmail or an sort of an ultimatum as some, I understand have described it.

I must do what my conscience dictates and have already resolved not to be a part of future NTA competitions if such conduct as what occurred at the 2004 competition is approved of and condoned by the NTA Board. I have stood up rightfully for all NTA members, NTA competitors, and NTA judges. I have stood up against those NTA Officials who were derelict in their duties, overstepped their authority, and abused their NTA positions with inappropriate behind the scenes competition room conduct. My letter of February 1st, 2005 gave the "powers that be" the opportunity to stand up and do the right thing but apparently to no avail as there has been nothing in the way of any official NTA reply.

The ball is by no means in my court. It is firmly in the hands of the NTA Board who now has the opportunity to stand up, acknowledge the damage done, and correct the situation or in turn be held accountable by the NTA membership. In doing so you will be acting to restore the integrity of the NTA and NTA competitions by holding accountable those responsible. If you fail to do so, and thereby approve of and condone such conduct, you will have only what you have now and I cannot be a part of it.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu

George, put that in your pipe&....

This response submitted by Bill on 4/29/05 at 3:48 PM. ( )

Smoke It. That was as great of an execution as I have ever seen on this forum. Well documented and laid out for all to see the bogus politics that sometimes arise in these competitions. I really respect you Tom as well as RJ and its nice to see you not let this get put under the rug. I think George should step down off of his pedestal because I don't really know what got him up there in the first place. Tom was correct in saying that George likes to shoot down anyone with a difference in opinion and I as well as many others, are completely sick of it. Who is George Roof anyway, please enlighten me of his past accomplishments so that I can know that he backs up what he speaks of so much. Your constant replies to almost every topic in the forum is old, your humorous one-liners are the only thing of value you bring to this forum. I choose gladly to not leave an e-mail address because of George's "followers". I respect his willingness to help, but help when asked specifically and don't let your opinions roll out of you pie hole so much. I think the NTA has a responsibility to look at this issue seriously and make positive changes if there is going to be a future. There is some great people in the organization, lets weed out the bad seeds.

Tom, everyone is entitled to their own opinion!

This response submitted by Mark Wilson on 4/29/05 at 5:08 PM. ( Mark@AfricanHunting.Info )


I have always stated that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I also made it clear to the NTA board at the winter board meeting that your letter and opinion on this matter were a separate issue from hiring you for any data entry duties.

Your letter was read and discussed at the 2005 NTA winter board meeting, and the NTA board had discussion on it. The NTA board then decided that the matter with Joe Kish was an unfortunated situation that required a difficult decision, however it was handled in an appropriate manner. That is why you did not get any official response from the NTA. In fact NTA board member Archie Phillips stated for the record that he thanked me for my actions in this matter.

Rest assured that if I or any NTA board member ever error in our decisions, it will always be on the side of the NTA member and competitor. After review of this matter no error was made. Your statement of your facts, is heavily tainted by your own strong personal opinions on this matter.

To date I have had exactly 4 people, including you, complain about what happened with Joe Kish at the 2004 NTA convention. I have had many more letters and e-mails of support for the decision that was made. Including thanks form judges that were in the room and were aware of what was really going on.

I am sure that we will each always have our own opinion on this matter, however facts are facts.

However, what you are alledging about the 2004 NTA Competition being tampered with or unfair is absolutly untrue and insulting to both the reputation of the NTA, all 2004 NTA board members and officers, the 2004 NTA Judges and to all competitors who competed and had their pieces fairly and honestly judged by qualified judges. What was done ensured the credibility of every mount in that room! I later learned that it was observed that via a walk by, no inspection judging, ( by the judge relieved ), he gave a piece of a close friend of his a perfect 100 score. Do you think that this type of conduct would not have become public knowledge? Do you think that once it was out that people would have respected the piece and that score and any awards won under these circumstances?
By insuring that the piece was fairly and properly judged the NTA preserved the integrity and reputation of that piece and that competitor, and all others. By the way it was a great piece and scored a 97 and a major award which no one had any doubts about, nor should they. No one else also had any doubts that all pieces in that room were also fairly judged, unless you personally do and are calling into question the integrity of the other NTA judges in that competition room.
You could have restated your opinions and comments at the 2005 NTA Summer board meeting, however instead you chose to try and hold the NTA competition hostage by not separating your personal demands from your 2005 NTA data entry employment proposal. You made it an all or nothing offer of, the NTA will publicly discredit itself and it's competitions and apologize or you will not do the 2005 NTA competition data entry duties.

Dispite attempts to get you to separate these two matters, and handle them separately, by 2005 Competition room director Tony Finazzo, you refused. Based upon these unreasonable demands, your proposal was not accepted by the NTA and a new competition data entry person was selected and hired. I trust Tony's decision and I am certain that the 2005 competition data entry will run smoothly and without any problems.

The NTA has done nothing wrong and has nothing to be ashamed of in this matter. The NTA will also never issue an unwarranted apology on an issue of this magnatude. The NTA has also done nothing to damage the reputation or integrity of its competitions. Quite to the contrary it has preserved the reputation for fairness!

Everyone has been treated fairly and with respect by the NTA and all NTA board members and officers. However the same can not be said for your personal demeanor with me in the 2004 competition room or Jan VanHousen's conduct and comments to Dino Hugon at the 2004 NTA Convention. Her comments like " I will make your name shi* in the taxidermy industry" are totally inappropriate to an NTA board member and judges director who is doing the job that the NTA members elected him to do. Or to anyone for that matter! Yet somehow you feel that these people are owed an apology.

I can only hope that, GOD forbid, if Larry Blomquist has to make a similiar decision some day at the World show that he does not have similiar problems caused by your personal opinions. Your reported conduct at the 2005 World show where you covertly personally attempted to get many people to support your personal opinion on this matter and oppose the NTA boards decision also bring into question your methods of properly handling this matter.

In closing I would like to say that like all board members and officers I donate all of my time to the NTA for the duties that I do, (unlike yourself who was a paid by the NTA ), and I have nothing to personally gain from the firing of Joe Kish or any other judge. I do what I do out of a love for taxidermy and for the NTA and it's membership! Perhaps if you share this same love, your next proposal for competition data entry duties should also be to volunteer your services and to serve the NTA membership, and not your own personal adgenda! Know that every decision that I make as NTA President is with the best intentions for every NTA member. I may not be compensated for this position of trust, but I take it very seriously. I will never violate this trust, the NTA and it's members are too important to me to ever do that! My personal opinion on hiring you for competition data entry duties only changed to no last week after reading your own words. If your intent is to damage the NTA and bring discredit to NTA competitions, then I am glad you "cannot be a part of it".

Thank you for the paid services that you and Gail have performed in the past for the NTA. If your intent changes to helping the NTA instead of discrediting it please feel free to offer your paid sevices or volunteer in the future.

The NTA is a strong and growing organization and the 2005 NTA convention is going to be a great show. I am also personally very sorry that you currently feel the way that you do.


Mark Wilson, NTA President

Conflict of interest?

This response submitted by Kim on 4/29/05 at 5:31 PM. ( )

So, we must ALWAYS keep an eye on the other guy? Could be cheating!
Is there any wonder that we can't get along with our neighbor?

Makes me want to

This response submitted by Travis on 4/29/05 at 7:30 PM. ( )

Interesting what a mess...people have taken this competition thing too far..Quite frankly I believe it took a big set of cahoonas to come out and make this public like Tom did..people need to see it in black and white....I`ve seen enough to make up mind that I`ll probably never join the NTA..that decision wouldn`t be made from a one sided view but as a whole from both sides of the street...waaaaay to many politics and wanna be`s in my opinion...sounds like these meetings are like an adult day care business...

I Forgot To Mention

This response submitted by Mark Wilson on 4/29/05 at 7:45 PM. ( Mark@AfricanHunting.Info )

That in 1983 at the NTA convention in Minnesota a judge was also relieved of his judging duties by the NTA President.

And so everyone is clear, all NTA director assignments are totally separate from board or officer assignments and are made by and directed by the NTA President. Some directors in fact are not on the NTA board.

Being hired by the NTA to enter competion data into a computer does not give that person any other title or responsibilities other than data entry, and until the 2000 Lubbock, TX convention these duties were performed by NTA volunteer members. The competition data entry person was only added later for ease of operations with the new computor system software. The data entry persons have previously been allowed to remain in the competition room simply as a matter of convience, and nothing more.

All NTA members should rest assured that changes will be made at this years NTA competition to keep all unnecessary people out of the competition room. That and the individual cross checking of major awards to prevent the mistakes that have happened over the past serveral years are perhaps the two positive things that has happened out of this unfortunate situation.

I also know that judges director Danny Owens and competition room director Tony Finazzo are well suited to their individual assignments and will do a great job with the 2005 NTA competition.

Although it has happened only twice I sincerely hope that no other NTA President ever has to relieve a judge from his duties at an NTA competition. I assure you that it is a decision that no one ever wants to make. However, one that has has been made twice since 1972 in fairness to the competitors and to protect the integrity of the NTA competitions and one that will be made again if necessary.

You have a great NTA board members and officers and the 2005 NTA convention in Sioux Falls will be a great and fair show and competition!


Mark Wilson, NTA President

Sounds like peta methods to me

This response submitted by Jan Van Hoesen on 4/29/05 at 8:06 PM. ( vanhoese@freeway net )

Your words ring of methods ued by peta, Mark. You say anything you can just to make the other person look wrong and you right no matter of truth. Tom is doing this from the bottom of his heart with hopes to bring back some trust in the NTA. You put your face and power above what is right for the NTA. You might as well say that Joe Kish has no integrety in your mind as he gave a score of 100 to somebody he knew. Is he suppose to give it less than he would seeing how he knew the person. Do you really think he would have given it less had he not known the person? You are judging Joe with no facts. How can you be god and know what was in his mind. I know you won't miss me, but I can no longer be a member of an organization who refuses to listen to it's people and will not correct it's lack of integrety. The Board has the power to at least make some right to this mess. I wonder if there are enough of those on the board to even try. I will boycott all NTA conventions until there is again a feeling of trust in the NTA. I ask those of who who think like wise to do this also. Don't go one year and show the administration that you too care about trust. I didn't need to say anything to Dino, his actions told the story.

Nice how "confidental" messages are put out for all to see

This response submitted by / on 4/29/05 at 8:18 PM. ( )

muddy waters indeed.


This response submitted by Travis on 4/29/05 at 8:43 PM. ( )

He wouldn`t be asking it to be confidential unless there was something to hide...Quite frankly the members moneys is what makes the NTA there shouldn`t be anything to hide from the members anyhow...


This response submitted by Dawn on 4/29/05 at 9:09 PM. ( )

I am not planning on attending the NTA show this year either.

"Scurilous and disgraceful": Interesting words

This response submitted by George on 4/29/05 at 11:57 PM. ( )

Interesting how the truth can be called such adjectives. I don't ever recall using "profane" words to describe the truth. And to think that someone - anyone- would attempt to slander me to keep the truth from being told is both myopic and morally decrepit. I never used names specifically and I never started this fire, but if it's fire you want to be aired to the public, I have gas.

Tom McNeal's manifesto was deliberately sent to the NTA Winter Board Meetings by messenger so that it arrived just as the meeting convened that opening morning in early February. Surprisingly enough, I received my own personal copy in the mail that very same day. This was intentionally done to embarrass the NTA and assure that I would not have time to rebut his diatribe at the meeting. Since he'd requested it be read openly, Mark Wilson, NTA President agreed and it was read to the board. Having been vilified in this discourse, I wrote a rebuttal and sent it via email to NTA Headquarters requesting that each board member also read my comments in light that I'd had a cheap shot taken without the ability to refute it. Mark read and accepted my request and that rebuttal letter is available to any of you who would like to see it (Even the gutless "Bill" who'd rather believe a lie than accept the truth).

I have been cautioned that I should stay away from this issue as it may adversely effect my being elected to the NTA presidency. If the NTA Presidency is worth no more than hiding in the dark and taking sucker punches, I guess it's really not that important to me. I've spent my entire adult life fighting for truth and integrity, and no self-annointed demagogue is going to slander that fact without a fight. I don't lie nor tolerate those who do. I despise liars and all the torment they cause, and this is one "worth dying for."

I won't address any issue that took place at Huntville other than the relief of duties of one Mr. Joe Kish.

First and foremost, there is NO Competition Committee other than an ad hoc group of the Judges Director, the Competition Director, the President, the Executive Director, and any board member the president so selects. It is not expressly stated and certain, a data entry person would not fall into any decision making category. I submit that if my even being in the room violated Tom McNeals ideals, then his persense as a paid employee was certainly questionable as well. he could have entered data from his hotel room had it come to that.

Next, lets discuss my being there at all.

The Competition Area is, in effect, closed during judging, but members of the board who ARE NOT COMPETING routinely enter the room to speak to fellow board members and judges about various issues that have no effect on the competition. No one would be that stupid to try to influence any judging. I was there, for none of those reasons. I had 56 seminars to run and it took most of my time as any of you who've been to a show I worked can attest to. During on slack moment, however, I was asked by Cindy Crain to take my digital camera down to the Competition Room and get some shots of the judges working the show for the Outlook. I went.

When I entered the room, I saw that my friend, Dino Hugon, was distressed in some way. When I asked, he stated that he was having some problems with "a judge". He told me that the other judges had worked through the night and well into the morning. However, this one "judge" had shown up only that morning, had taken the score sheets, casually walked through the room, and then written the score sheets and left. Dino said he'd spent less than 2 hours (Not bad for $750, free room and free banquet tickets along with meal stipends). Dino then asked me to look at several mounts. They were exceptional mounts but I related that as a non-competitor, I'm sure the judging would find things that I wasn't seeing with such a cursory glance. It was then that he showed me the score sheet. This score sheet was completely devoid of any marks or category points. The only thing on that score sheet was : "79% Poor Choice of mannikins. See judge". That's it. NOTHING ELSE! No categories were marked, no comments about symmetry, smell, lip placement, nothing.

Some pieces were rated higher, but all contained the same verbiage and none had any other marks, scoring or comments attached. Only one blue ribbon had been awarded.

Then I WAS TOLD that this 79% had been given to the 2003 National Champion's mount. My comments to Dino was that such remarks on the scoresheet would create havoc with our suppliers who support our shows and with the competitors when they reviews their sheets for critiques they had paid good money to receive. I told him that he need to find Mark immediately and have him make a decision. That was it for me. Nothing esle.

Mark came in, same the same disgraceful and pitiful excuse for judging, made the decision to replace Mr. Kish and told Dino to find another qualified judge to rejudge the complete category. Mark then came to me and told me his decision which I fully supported. He told me that in order to create as little controversy as possible, he'd tell anyone who asked what the situation had been and that he'd still honor the NTA's contract to Mr. Kish.

End of story.

Now I'm being castigated for my involvement. Tom McNeal would rather I had swept this little dirty secret under a rug and told the competitors that their work had been judged by a "giant of the industry" and they should be honored to take such a travesty of a scoresheet as they got and be proud of it. Ain't happening.

To support my stance, I want to quote an article that was written in the April 1990 edition of the American Taxidermists Magazine. I will only use only a few select sentences of an article entitled "A Biased Look At Competitions". It states, " As a form manufacturer, I am biased as a judge....What seems grossly unfair is that competitors have a tough time registereing a complaint if they think (or know) the judge made a mistake....Judge as hard as he can so that if he is criticized he can answer that he judged the way he would at a national level competition -meaning the NTA show....I find it distressing to see the work of seasoned competitors being failed for top honors by unclear purposes, misapplied rules, and judges who are famous and biased....Something is out of whack when less than ten percent of game heads get blue ribbons at a show....Failing their work is like treating them the way Cinderella's step-mother treated her...Here's a rule that will scare all the judges: If a supplier is going to judge a show, why not disqualify all mounts done on the supplier's forms. Since a taxidermy competition really tests a taxidermists ability to mout a skin and not the relative merits or qualitities of a particular brand of forms, wouldn't this put an end to supplier's bias?"

Those words were authored by Joe Kish. The same Joe Kish who, after he'd completed judging, was handing out fliers in the hotel bar advertising his own new forms being marketed.

Let one thing be clear, I'm not interested in destroying Joe Kish or his credibility. Few would ever argue with his observations on animal anatomy and composition. What I AM stating is that the work he was paid for was not completed to the best interests of the NTA membership. The membership of the NTA had its character defended and now we get Tom McNeal and his supporters attempting to turn the NTA into the bad guy.

I know some of you out there are objective enough to see the transparency in Tom McNeals flawed logic. Those others of you can think what you will about me and about the NTA, but I sleep well at night believeing that what little involvement I had in this whole fiasco was done for the exact reasons that the NTA exists.

Jan, you continue to amaze me that you'd prefer to bite off your nose to spite your face. Dawn, sadly you seem smitten with the same logic and I'd hope that your missing the show is for some other reason. Travis, your being a member is going to take some more growing up and realization that the world is really an interesting place if you get out of the closet long enough to look at it. The only "politics" in the NTA is between people ears who do not agree with what the majority of the membership decides. If any of you truly hates the NTA so much, why do you belong? If you truthfully want to make changes, why are't you at those board meetings, why aren't you running for the elected positions, why aren't you volunteering to conduct seminars or work the conventions with us? Do you really think boycotting the only official function this industry has is going to make it BETTER? Did I miss something here?

Are any of you members of any other professional organization? Do they have anything different than the NTA? The only difference I see between the NTA and the NRA or Safari Club is that their membership empowers their executive directors and board of directors where the hue and cry of this group is to destroy the organization. The gutless wonders like "Bill" scream for "truth", but they aren't even accountable to themselves, much less anyone else. When the truth is given, they want to shoot the messenger. But I'll tell him and any of you the same thing I live by, "If the truth is too difficult for you to handle, DON'T ASK ME THE QUESTION!"


This response submitted by Travis on 4/30/05 at 1:36 AM. ( )

If you read my statement above I clearly said I considered both sides of the story for which my decision would be based far as politics go, I`m not the type of guy who likes to get involved with organizations and every organization has politics involved to one degree or the other..

My statement about the confidentiality is based on a pretty simple code of ethics...why should there be secrets when the people`s money is what makes up the organization. Someday I may join---guess it just depends on how "involved" I want to get...for more reasons than one I feel I`m being steered into this mess least that`s the way it seems it has to be for me to achieve my long term goals..then again I will do as much as possible to reach my goals on my own, less any an organization I hope they continue to make changes for the best---I can`t say either party involved here is going to come out smelling like roses. Both have said and done things they`ll regret(politics=personal interests)...

Maybe all this stuff needed to come out on the table..what are people`s intentions for getting involved, it`s hard to tell but one thing for sure is there are alot of folks upset about it.

As far as me getting out of the closet and looking around---well my only excuse is I live in KS...if we ever meet in person you`ll see I`m one of the good old boys and try to help folks get better by answering 100`s of e-mails ever year, taking alot of phone calls, and I actually got asked to do my first seminar this year which was a true honor and pleasure...My heart is in the right place when it comes to taxidermy. So many people here at the site helped me out when I first got started that I honestly feel obligated to help out people who are struggling. How far will I push myself into the industry--don`t know for sure...I guess we`ll see...I`m trying to see both sides of the story here---the judging doesn`t sound right to me at all---but the way the termination was handle may have been less than perfect too. I dont know any of you all personally so my opinion is based on what I`m reading...I`m reading alot of opinions--guess that`s why they always say there are 3 sides to every story...


This response submitted by Joe K. on 4/30/05 at 8:51 AM. ( )

There has been many years of this.

Check all scores

This response submitted by Jan Van Hoesen on 4/30/05 at 9:56 AM. ( )

So lets see. Now the NTA person in charge probably the president as he has power of all kinds, will check over all the score sheets to see if the judge did the job according to their liking and of course expertice on all animals. If not to their liking the judge will be fired and somebody else brought in no matter of their ability of knowlegde of that particular subject, and they will judge according to the president's liking. I once gave a second place on a mount to a piece that got best of show in PA. I'm sure I would have been fired if you had been there at the time. Is there a chance that the first judge was not fully competant to judge that category? Will any judge in their right mind want to judge the NTA unless of course they are the kind of person whowants to go along with everything the NTA says or tells them to do,

Travis, I'm glad you explained

This response submitted by George on 4/30/05 at 10:22 AM. ( )

The trouble with any group of people is that there are those who can only elevate their own standards by trashing those of someone else. These people only look for "reasons" to slander others and when called out for their actions, they twist and turn the truth to their advantage. Regardless of what those who dislike me have to say, I think of myself as someone with integrity and who will fight for truth and honesty.

I've been in "politics" and believe me, the NTA is not about politics. The only reason that word is used it that those same detractors can't think of any other to slander the organization. If voting on an issue by a board of directors is "political", then I suppose you're right. The only trouble is that EVERYTHING in life is political. I'm supposing that the choice of "what's for supper" tends to be a question of politics then. Usually when that can't be agree on, the next political issue is "Then where are we going for supper."

The NTA is the ONLY professional, NATIONAL organization for taxidermists. Your membership not only promotes that ideal, it gives YOU access to information that would take years to acquire "on your own". I can guarantee you that if you attended only one national show, you will have paid your entry fee when you sit through your first seminar. The contacts you make will astound you and you'll find that the true "icons" of this industry treat you with respect and dignity like you won't find other places. You'll form friendships that will make your life and livelihood more complete than you'd ever imagine. If you truly love taxidermy and intend on being a taxidermist, you owe it to yourself to join.

I personally don't understand the constant back biting that takes place here. I guess some people just walk around with a chip on their shoulder and will defend their friends even when they are wrong.

If you can get away, come to Sioux Falls. That's about as close to you as the NTA will be in the near future. If what I've said is a lie, you come see me and identify yourself. I will personally refund your NTA membership dues. What do you have to lose except a couple hours drive and a registration fee?

Just re-joined this year (!)

This response submitted by John J. on 4/30/05 at 10:23 AM. ( )

...and the NTA is still afloat while others have allowed themselves to drown in its wake.


This response submitted by Travis on 4/30/05 at 10:50 AM. ( )

I agree with what ya said as far as politics are part of everyday life...I just try to reduce my involvement as much as I was considering going to Sioux Falls this year but it doesn`t look like I can pull it off. I just got called back to Boeing this past Nov and don`t have any vacation time. Next year I`ll more than likely be there to check`r out. Theres no doubt we`ll meet somewhere down the`s in the deck allready..

Todd Kranau told me last weekend that I should start going to national shows. He judged our show last weekend and I tell you I was very impressed with his knowledge...he gave very detailed information on what needed work and he had reference pictures to back it up. We swapped alot of ideas...I`m sure your right about the learning experience, and meeting good folks....I`ll see ya in 2006...

YES, Jan, "judges is their right mind will"

This response submitted by George on 4/30/05 at 10:59 AM. ( )

I can't speak for all the others. My question to you is why would you continue to distort the truth of this issue?

No one "checks" to see if judges are doing their job or to argue with their decisions. Any organization who contracts and hires and individual to do a job ordinarily ASSUMES that individual to have some modicum of integrity to do the job agreed upon. But to imply that you'd hire someone and accept less than you'd contracted for or paid for without ever demanding that professionalism is absolutely assinine. You're saying the same thing Tom is. You hire a guy to reroof your house and if he decides that you only need a few shingles replaced, you should just pay him and forget about the leaks in your ceiling?

Checking the scoresheets that Joe Kish submitted really was a moot point IF the individual categories had been attended to as EXPECTED OF ANY JUDGE. Our score sheets, for those who don't know or want to ignore it are on an 8.5 x 14 sheet. At the top is the identifier Entry #, Specimen, and the Judges signature. Below that signature are these words: "The items checked are those in which the judge has found fault or needs improvement. The maximum score possible is 100. Copyright 1999 National Taxidermists Association." Below that are 3 Major Categories of (1) Craftsmanship and Mechanical Soundness (2) Anatomical accuracy, and(3)Artistic Merit.

Under #1 we have A - Correct use of fillers, correct use of paints, shrinkage and drumming as separate lines. B - Appearance of Seams, Proper alignment of skin on form, grooming, secure attachment of all parts to subject. C - Basics, cleanliness, odor. D - Nose and Moth and lips.

Under #2 we have E - Eye set, eye anatomy,ears, and ear butts. F - Head:Overall shape and anatomy, neck, body. G - Front legs and shoulders, rear legs and hindquarters, tail area.

Finally we have #3 and I - "The judge may CHOOSE to award your entry points by checking those areas below in which he or she found merit."

Please understand that each letter grouping has numerous blocks that can and should be checked along with a small "comments block" under each category.

At the bottom of the page is a slightely larger block for "Judges Comments" and "Fatal flaw, if applicable". Off to the right corner is a block that says "SCORE" with an index beside it stateing that First is 100 - 90, Second is 89 - 80 and Third is 79 - 70.

I'll tell you and I'll tell the world that the score sheet I saw had absolutely NO MARKS ANYPLACE IN ANY OF THOSE REQUIRED BLOCKS. None, nada, zip. The top of the sheet was completed and signed and the Judge's Comments block had the words, "Poor choice of mannikins. See judge" and the SCORE block had a number in it.

Everyone here systemantically emphasizes that competitions are not for awards but rather for the LEARNING EXPERIENCE and most even extol the score sheet as a permanent means of fortifying the lessons to be learned at such a competition. I want just one person to tell me what any individual might have learned from being handed a score sheet that I've just described.

Now if any one of you can justify those actions to me, then I'll apologize for having assumed the NTA membership in general and the competitors specifically deserved more than they got from this individual judge. Furthermore, if just ONE COMPETITOR will tell me that they would have valued such a critique on the piece they entered, then I'll apologize to that person as well. BUT I submit that if the judges autograph was something you cherished, it would have saved the NTA a great deal of money just to ask for one from the individual instead of having the competition area used for that purpose.

Jan, I guess I should apologize to you first then?

OK it`s my turn!

This response submitted by Ken R. Walker on 4/30/05 at 2:10 PM. ( hadenuff )

I hereby withdraw my offer to judge the Michigan competition,and I will no longer attend any shows judged by Jan van Hoesen!

Dear Tom -

This response submitted by Amy Hugon on 4/30/05 at 5:42 PM. ( )

Now, I understand you're singing yet a different tune and have your wife out campaigning against my proposal

Tom, leave ME out of this

This response submitted by Amy Hugon on 4/30/05 at 5:47 PM. ( )

Now, I understand you're singing yet a different tune and have your wife out campaigning against my proposal
Tom, I've not ever met you, but you leave me the **** out of this. I am NOT INVOLVED EITHER WAY. I was not in Huntsville. I have never spoken to you. I have not spoken for or against you in any public venue. I am not campaigning for anyone.

I AM insulted by your insinuation.

My opinion on your proposal would be completely irrelevant since I am not on the NTA Board. The NTA Board, and Tony Finazzo as Chairman of Operations, will determine who runs the computers next year.

It is NOT me.

I am a little busy homeschooling three children and dealing with chronic illness to get involved in the immature pettiness that this has devolved down to.

Also - get and use spell check. When you put out a letter that insults someone, it's nice to spell their name correctly.

And the next time you can't find someone's email, you might perhaps look at their website under the handy dandy links here at taxi-net. That might just work.

Amy Elizabeth Hugon

Travis - Confidentiality

This response submitted by Dino on 4/30/05 at 11:16 PM. ( )

He wouldn`t be asking it to be confidential unless there was something to hide...Quite frankly the members moneys is what makes the NTA there shouldn`t be anything to hide from the members anyhow...

Travis, that's one view. The alternative, true, viewpoint - albeit less interesting - is that I didn't want to throw more gasoline on the fire. There was enough anger on the internet at that point over the situation, and I saw no reason to add to it.

Breaking The 100K Barrier

This response submitted by bg on 5/2/05 at 5:51 PM. ( )

Just wanted to see this post go over the 100k barrier.

That should do it.

Swallow your pride and super egos. Who cares anymore?

This response submitted by Sick of the babies on 5/5/05 at 9:54 PM. ( )

Seriously folks, who really cares anymore? Swallow your pride and ego. Simply shut up!

Thank you!

Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu