Braille Monitor April-May 1985
by Kenneth Jernigan
On February 13, 1985, Geoffrey Bull was fired as President of Triformation Braille Service. Technically he was asked to resign, but it gets to the same place. The circumstances leading to this event are, to say the least, complex and worthy of note.
In the fall of 1984 the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) solicited bids for book and magazine production for 1985. Triformation Braille Service, Inc., of Stuart, Florida, had been one of the major producers for 1984, but it received no contracts at all for 1985. Why? There was something else. Almost twenty-five percent of the Triformation staff had resigned on the same day.
Again, why? In an attempt to get answers to these questions I wrote under date of December 18, 1984, to Geoffrey Bull, the President of TBS. I sent a copy of my letter to Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) and asked him if he would care to comment. He did under date of December 21, 1985. I also asked Jim Gashel, our Director of Governmental Affairs, to do research on the NLS book and magazine production bids and contracts for 1984 and 1985. The results of that research are printed elsewhere in this issue.
Mr. Bull replied to my letter under date of January 18, 1985; and it was not long until, as the saying goes, the fur began to fly. Guy Carbonneau (the President of Triformation Systems, Inc.-not to be confused with Triformation Braille Service, Inc.) wrote letters both to me and to Geoffrey Bull under date of February 6, 1985. Arthur S. Kleinpell (Chairman of the Board of Triformation Braille Service, Inc.-again not to be confused with Triformation Systems, Inc.) wrote me under date of March 4, 1985. Finally, Geoffrey Bull wrote me under date of March 18, 1985.
As all of these letters were being written and responded to, a pattern began to emerge. There seemed to be more than a little dissatisfaction with the handling by NLS of the bids and contracts for book and magazine production last fall. Understandably Geoffrey Bull was not happy with the procedures, but Ben Holmes (the Executive Director of the Associated Services for the Blind, located in Philadelphia) was not happy about it either-and he got the lion's share of the book contracts.
I interviewed Mr. Bull several times before writing this article, and I interviewed Mr. Holmes on March 20, 1985.
As will be seen from his second letter, Mr. Bull says that the handling of the bids by NLS was poor. He says that Mr. Cylke is not at fault, just ill served by his staff. Mr. Holmes, on the other hand, makes no distinction as to blame. He told me that when his Braille magazine bid for 1985 was rejected, he was literally "sick." He said he talked to his attorney and asked the American Printing House for the Blind if they would care to make common cause with him to try to remedy the situation. He says they declined the invitation.
When Mr. Gashel interviewed Mr. Cylke March 19, 1985, Mr. Cylke was asked to respond to allegations that confidential information about bids for Braille books had been leaked from NLS in order to favor certain suppliers. He explained as follows:
It is a fact that two bid solicitations were made last year. No bidder submitted a response to the first solicitation which was judged by NLS to be acceptable. Therefore, all bids for Braille were rejected, and the process started again with a new solicitation. However, Mr. Cylke emphatically denied that there was any hanky-panky. Rumor had said that the Triformation bid was low on the first round and that the Associated Services for the Blind (located in Philadelphia) had brought political pressure to bear to get a piece of the action. Whether this is so or not, all of the bids were rejected- some say on petty technical grounds, the very kind of technicalities which had not been raised during past contract lettings. When the bids came in for the second round, the Associated Services for the Blind (ASB) was low, and Triformation was out of the running.
Although Mr. Cylke declined to name names, he said that at least one producer which had not submitted a bid in the first round did so in the second. He said that this may have resulted from contact between this producer and one of the original bidders. He said that his information came from people with the producers. He said that sometime between the first bid and the second, there was a visit by one producer to another. The visitor, according to Mr. Cylke, had not submitted a bid in the first round; but the visited (Mr. Cylke's term) had done so. During the visit, the visitor was given information about the bid (including prices) by a person in the employment of the visited. Later it developed that the visitor became a competitor of the visited in the second round. The visitor did, in fact, submit a lower bid than the visited. Under the circumstances it was not hard to figure out the identities of the visitor and the visited. I told Mr. Holmes that I had information that he had visited Triformation, and he confirmed it. However, he strongly denied that he had been given any information about the contracts during his visit. He said that he was in Florida last fall and went to Stuart to visit Triformation Systems (not Braille Service) to discuss an expensive plate embossing device for producing Braille which Triformation makes and he hoped to buy. He had bought Braille producing machinery and technology from Triformation Systems in the past. While he was at Triformation Systems, he was taken across the street to Triformation Braille Service, where he met Mr. Bull and was courteously given a tour. That was all there was to it.
I asked Mr. Holmes about Mr. Bull's statement (reprinted later in this article) that Associated Services had submitted an unrealistic picture of its production capacity to NLS in its second bid. Mr. Holmes denied it although admitting that most of the facts given by Mr. Bull about the number of ASB staff were correct. He said that he could operate his computers and presses for two shifts a day, or if necessary for three. Mr. Holmes said that he had not talked to any politician at all but that when his magazine bid was rejected, he was considering every alternative he could think of. He said that the technicalities imposed by NLS were unduly involved and difficult.
As we consider the complexities of the contracts issued by NLS for 1985 book and magazine production, we must add still another factor. Public Law 89522, the law under which NLS operates, says in part: "In the purchase of books in either raised characters or in sound reproduction recordings, the Librarian of Congress, without reference to the provisions of Section 3709 of the revised statutes of the United States (41 USE 5), shall give preference to nonprofit-making institutions or agencies whose activities are primarily concerned with the blind and other physically handicapped persons in all cases where the prices or bids submitted by such institutions or agencies are by said Librarian, under all circumstances and needs involved, determined to be fair and reasonable."
What this means when we cut through the verbage is simply this: If a nonprofit organization does not bid more than ten percent higher than a profit- making competitor, the contract goes to the nonprofit organization. One would think it would be the other way around since the nonprofit organization does not have to pay taxes and is usually the recipient of charitable gifts and bequests. However, the government has never held itself out as a proponent of logic.
Be this as it may, the blind of the nation should be much better informed than they are about what is happening in the production of Braille. To this end we have collected the data for this article and are reproducing the pertinent correspondence. While it is lengthy and involved, careful study will reward the reader. When possible, the Monitor reproduces original documents and primary sources:
December 18, 1984
Dear Mr. Bull:
When you came to the National Federation of the Blind convention in Kansas City in 1983, you radiated optimism concerning the future of Triformation Braille Service. At that time Guy Carbonneau seemed to be in charge of all operations, and your plans seemed clear. It was announced that Louise Kimbrough was leaving her position as Editor of Dialogue Magazine to take a managerial position with Triformation.
The pattern was essentially more of the same when you came to our convention last summer in Phoenix. One had the feeling that here was a private company (not a government agency or a non-profit organization) which was digging in with the know-how and the determination to produce Braille in a business-like manner and make it pay-not only for the company but also for the blind. There was no hint of trouble or problem.
Certain matters have recently come to my attention which cause me to wonder what is happening. Last summer at Phoenix you mentioned that Triformation Braille Service was now an independent entity, but I did not realize that there had been a complete separation from the remainder of the operation and that Guy Carbonneau was no longer connected with Triformation Braille Service. I am told that this is the case. Moreover, I understand that Louise Kimbrough (about whom so much favorable comment was made only a year ago) left Triformation Braille Service on December 14, 1984, and that four other staff members left at the same time. If (as I am given to believe) you have only about twenty staff members, this constitutes a rather sizable percentage of the total number and. was surely not mere happenstance.
To add still another factor, there is the matter of contracts for book production from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. It is my understanding that Triformation produced Braille books for the National Library Service in 1984 and prior years but that NLS is not awarding a single contract to Triformation for production of Braille books for 1985-this despite the fact that Triformation submitted bids. I have heard all sorts of speculation: that you did not follow correct bid procedures, that NLS did not follow its own procedures, that political pressure was brought to bear, that you submitted a bid to produce the total amount of the NLS Braille book order for 1985 instead of breaking the bid into smaller segments, and such like. Under the circumstances it seems better to ask than speculate. Therefore, I would appreciate your response to what I have said in this letter and to the following specific items:
What is the corporate structure of Triformation Braille Service, and what (if any) is its relationship to the other company which was formed when the operation was divided? Who is the owner of Triformation Braille Service, and what are the circumstances surrounding the division of the original company? Why did Louise Kimbrough and the other staff members leave Triformation Braille Service? There are those who say that Mrs. Kimbrough feels that Triformation's promise far exceeded its performance.
I would like to have your comments concerning the NLS contracts for 1985. Why did none of them go to Triformation? Was it a change in thinking or policy on the part of NLS? Was it a change in the behavior or procedures of Triformation? Or was it simply that you did not bid low enough? If it was only a matter of how much you bid, how could things have changed so drastically in a few short months?
Finally, I would appreciate your comments about the future of Braille in this country. As you know, we recently established the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, and we are doing everything that we can to see that increasing amounts of Braille are available. Triformation Braille Service has seemed to be one of the most promising factors in the equation. I have always felt that its production was efficient and its prices competitive. With the new developments I wonder what the future holds for Triformation Braille Service and whether the prospects for increasing supplies of Braille are less bright than we thought. In short, are we dealing with politics, production problems, economics, personality differences, or something else?
Since Frank Kurt Cylke is the head of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and since some of the issues raised in this letter involve NLS, I am sending Mr. Cylke a copy of this letter and am asking him for any comments he cares to make. I hope that you will answer my questions specifically and in detail. It is my current plan to print this letter (along with any response I may get from you and/or Mr Cylke) in the Monitor.
Kenneth Jernigan, President
National Federation of the Blind
cc: Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke
December 21, 1985
Dear Mr. Jernigan:
I have received a copy of your December 18, 1984, letter to Geoffrey Bull, President of Triformation Braille Service. In it you suggest that I may wish to comment.
As you know on November 30, 1984, James Gashel of your staff requested a summary of our awards for books and magazines in all media. A list was compiled and sent to him, together with background material, on December 13, 1984. A copy is enclosed for your information.
Please note that in addition to the items listed on the enclosure the American Foundation for the Blind received $888,048.00 for the recording and duplication of audio cassette books. Triformation Braille Service received an award of $8,287.50 to produce Musical Mainstream in Braille.
In conclusion, I note that all Library of Congress contracting is pursued in accord with PL 89-522, Title 48 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations System and Library of Congress Regulations. Our files are open to appropriate public examination.
Frank Kurt Cylke, Director
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
January 18, 1985
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
I write in reply to your letter dated December 18, 1984. The nature and extent of the questions raised in your letter demonstrate once again how effective you and your organization are in "keeping your finger on the pulse...".
This reply will make an honest attempt to answer all your questions-all, that is, except one: you ask "... I would appreciate your comment about the future of Braille in this country". This is, I believe, too extensive a subject to cover in this letter; suffice it to say that Triformation Braille Service plans to be a major factor in that future.
Let me deal with your inquiry under four headings: Corporate History; NLS Contracts; Staff Movements; and the Future for Triformation Braille Service.
Triformation Systems established its own Braille production facility in 1980 by setting up a new department-Triformation Braille Service. The objective?-to establish a testing site for the braille production equipment manufactured by Triformation Systems, to pioneer new Braille production methods and techniques, and of course, to make further resources available to meet the demands of the Braille user. This new Braille department initially concentrated on the production of Braille books, particularly press-Braille books for the National Library Service Division of the Library of Congress (NLS).
Triformation Braille Service was remarkably successful in this field. From small beginnings (15 Braille titles in 1980), 45 Braille titles were produced in 1981, 95 in 1982, 150 in 1983, and the equivalent of 215 average length Braille titles were produced in 1984 - more than 60% of the NLS press-Braille book contract. Triformation Systems' Braille department therefore rapidly became very much a production oriented unit, rather than an experimental/ testing ground. This was one of the key factors which determined that the Braille production department of Triformation Systems should be established as a separate corporate entity in June, 1984.
On June 15, 1984, Mr. Arthur S. Kleinpell, the largest stockholder of Triformation Systems, Inc., and a member of the Board of Directors since 1980, bought TBS, Inc. He had been with Triformation Systems, Inc. through the start-up process of the printing house and understands the in's and out's of the Braille printing business. In fact, it was Mr. Kleinpell, along with Guy Carbonneau, President of Triformation Svstems, Inc., who was instrumental in hiring me from England. Mr. Kleinpell's commitment and dedication to the blind community continues as it did when he was a director of Triformation Systems. TBS and Triformation Systems are now completely separate corporate entities, but they are physically next door to one another and many of the old relationships and common interests remain; and where there was advantage before of having a high tech company and a Braille producer working closely together, those opportunities still exist, and the spirit of cooperation remains high.
There are two major Braille contracts for which NLS sends out invitations for bid each year-Braille magazines, and press-Braille books. Despite guarantees given by the courier used, the bid from TBS for magazines for 1985 arrived at NLS fifty (50) minutes late, and was therefore declared "No Bid". The circumstances leading to awards made under the press-Braille book contract for 1985 were somewhat unusual: on August 24, 1984, bids from three of the five established Braille producers were opened at NLS-one producer decided not to bid, and the fifth (Associated Services for the Blind (ASB)), did not submit a bid. One month later, and three days before the contract was due to commence, all producers received a notice stating that: "The FY 1985 press- Braille book bid IFB 85-001, has been cancelled. There were no responsive bidders!" (All bidders had submitted defective samples.) Three weeks later the same bid package was reissued and on November 15, four bids were opened at NLS-bids from the three original bidders plus a bid from ASB. (It was learned later that all samples submitted on this second occasion were also defective.) On or about November 29, 1984-it being now two months past the scheduled start date for the contract (see later in this letter)-producers were notified of the following awards: ASB 200 titles at a price of $.1389 per page; National Braille Press (NBP) 12 titles at $.175; American Printing House (APH) 138 titles at $.177. The only other bidder, TBS, was awarded no titles having bid $.164 for 250 titles and $.167 for 200 titles. The method of award is somewhat complex since it is not only determined by price, but also by proven ability to deliver a quality product on schedule, and by the production capacity and quality assurance procedures of each Braille producer. One further (and very important factor as far as TBS is concerned), is a contract clause which gives a ten percent (10%) bid price advantage to nonprofit organizations- Section M-l of the contract states: "...The NLS/BPH reserves the right to award all, none, or part of this solicitation as may be in its best interest and to give nonprofit organizations working with the blind and physically handicapped first consideration if their prices are determined to be fair and reasonable (i.e. within ten percent of those quoted by commercial sources)."
To my knowledge TBS is the only for profit organization in the United States--and indeed anywhere in the world--that produces significant amounts of Braille, we are therefore the only Braille producer that can be affected by this particular clause, and as it happens this year, although we were the second lowest bidder the "ten percent clause" puts us down into fourth place which dramatically affected our fortunes on this occasion.
During the past four years TBS, with the encouragement of the NLS, has been the forerunner in holding down the escalating costs of Braille production. In our bid for press-Braille books for 1985 we increased our price (a significant increase) for the first time since 1980.
The primary cause for this increase is the continuing decline in the number of copies of press-Braille books being ordered, the numbers having decreased by more than fifteen percent (15%) over the last five years. You will no doubt recall, Dr. Jernigan, that I addressed this question of the relationship between the number of copies and unit cost at your last annual convention in Phoenix.
In 1980 approximately 80 copies of each press-Braille title were produced-- the average number of copies during 1985 is expected to be about 66. If the number of copies had remained at 80, TBS would have been able to produce 1985 books at or about 1980 prices demonstrating just how well we have been tackling the question of Braille production costs.
Obviously, our attack on costs has been well noted by some of our competitors--ASB have come in with a very impressive bid for 1985, and their bid to my knowledge is the lowest bid submitted for more than four years. On costs alone ASB had us beaten hands down on this occasion, and although I am obviously not happy with the ten percent differential which enabled NBP and APH to ease ahead of us this year, there's little more to be said about awards made on a purely price basis. However, I am very deeply concerned about other more discretionary aspects of the award process.
As I stated earlier, apart from price, award allocations are determined by the ability to deliver a quality product on schedule, and by production capacity.
The contract allows NLS considerable discretion in these areas. For example: Section L-1.1 states "No bidder will be awarded a quantity of work greater than their annual production capacity." And "The Production Capacity Model and Quality Assurance Procedures must be approved by NLS/BPH for the bid to be considered responsive." Section L-2 states "... the government reserves the right to make an award on any item for a quantity less than the quantity offered, at the unit cost or prices offered, unless the offeror specifies otherwise in the offer." (Although TBS did not bid on less than 200 titles, this clause would allow NLS to award less than 200 if it had so wished.) Finally, Section M-l states "... the NLS/BPH reserves the right to award all, none, or part of the solicitation as may be in its best interest...".
In my view NLS left itself open to criticism this year in its award process, since it's decisions led to the following situation: ASB, who according to NLS records have not previously produced more than 18 titles in one contract year (I suspect this figure should be a little higher-but not much) are contracted to produce 200 titles in the 1985 contract. For a producer not previously geared up to produce large numbers of press-Braille books this huge jump in production would be virtually impossible under normal conditions, and in the now shortened contract year (see earlier), is probably unattainable if resources employed are only those described on the Production Capacity Model submitted by ASB to NLS for approval. Meanwhile, APH is left with considerable spare book production capacity, and TBS is obliged to release valuable trained staff because it was awarded no books. Every attempt must be made to avoid these radical swings in contract award allocations since they are potentially harmful to the planned growth of Braille producers, and to the medium- to long- term prospects for Braille. (I suspect my comments will be somewhat similar if next year TBS is awarded 250 books, and ASB is awarded none!)
Dr. Jernigan, you ask why did Louise Kimbrough and four other staff members leave Triformation Braille Service? Apart from Louise the other four staff members to whom you refer had been with the company for less than six months. Obviously with the loss of such a major contract, they were astute enough to realize that staff numbers may need to be cut in the short term and that their positions were vulnerable; I believe therefore, they decided to determine their own destinies at a time of their own choosing. I also know that one or two of them were unsettled having only recently relocated to Stuart, Florida. Mrs. Louise Kimbrough joined TBS as "Special Projects Manager" and both she and I hoped that she would be able to spearhead the diversification of our activities. The company's outstanding success with press-Braille books proved to be a mixed blessing, since it put considerable demands on our staff and particularly our prooofreading resources.
Louise had proven abilities and expertise in this field and production pressures pursuaded us to use her skills in dealing with the more difficult proofreading tasks and we therefore failed to capitalize on her expertise in other areas-this frustrated both Louise and myself. Ironically, now that the company has the resources and the will to diversify and broaden the scope of its activities, Mrs. Kimbrough has decided to leave us so that she can undertake a number of projects that I know she had had in mind for some little time and is to become self-employed. But she is literally just down the road from TBS and we will continue to work with one another from time to time and with Louise potentially available on a consultancy basis, we hope to continue to benefit from her broad experience. The Future for TBS It was Guy Carbonneau's inspiration, initiative and influence that gave birtr to Triformation System's Braille production department, and it was Martir. Droege's know-how and energy that put that department on its feet-and I like to think that I have continued Martin's good work. The Braille division of Triformation Systems has since the early days functioned more often than not independently from the company. That is why the recent purchase of TBS, Inc. and ensuing corporate reorganization went smoothly. The recent company reorganization and the loss of a major contract just happened to occur in the same year-there was no cause and effect here. The loss of such a major contract is obviously a blow to our pocketbook and to our pride but it gives us an unexpected opportunity to do some active marketing in new areas now that we are somewhat freed from book production pressures. You ask, Dr. Jernigan, "with the new developments I wonder what the future holds for Triformation Braille Service and whether the prospects for increasing supplies of Braille are less oright than we thought." No sir, the prospects are not less bright, in fact if there is Braille out there that needs to be produced-let us know! TBS plans to become an increasing force in areas other than book production, but of course we also plan to do our share of the 1986 NLS press-Braille book contract.
Thank you Dr. Jernigan for giving me this opportunity to let you know what is going on down here in the deep south; as you so rightly said you your letter-"it seems better to ask than to speculate."
Yours very truly,
Geoffrey L. Bull, President
Triformation Braille Service
cc: Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke
February 6th, 1985
Enclosed with this letter you will find a copy of a letter I had sent to Geoffrey Bull. The letter was in response to a letter he had sent to you.
I felt that the nature of this letter, and the subject matter required a response from me, particularly since I am mentioned prominently in his letter. I think that the letter I sent back to him will speak for itself.
I hope that all is well with you.
Sincerely, Guy Carbonneau, President
Triformation Systems, Inc.
February 6th, 1985
This letter is to clarify and correct some inaccuracies in regards to your recent letter to Dr. Jernigan. Initially, let me say that in the future when you refer to me by name in your correspondence I would appreciate that you carbon copy me. In this case I was made aware of the contents of your letter and your references to me through the courtesy of Kurt Cylke who sent me a copy of his copy.
First: In regards to TBS and its past and current relationship with Triformation Systems. I was solely responsible for your hiring at TBS. At the time of your hiring Mr. Kleinpell was not involved with my decision to hire you.
Second: Your statement that Mr. Kleinpell is the majority stockholder in Triformation Systems is incorrect. Mr. Kleinpell held a sizable portion of the stock; however he never was in a majority position in this organization. In June of 1984 when he purchased TBS, Mr. Kleinpell and this company severed all connections.
Third: An issue I want to raise is your references to TBS' founding, the motivation therein, and lastly the reasons for the sale of TBS. TBS was founded as a prototypical production test environment. An environment whereby we could experiment with and further develop advances in the current technologies involved in the production of Braille in as many media as we were able to capably advance. It was with the encouragement and cooperation of the NLS that TBS became a reality. You are correct in your reference to the fact that it was my initiative that started TBS, and further it was Martin Droege's energy and expertise that allowed it to be viable. It was upon these two efforts that the edifice you inherited was built. The fact that TBS was able to be competitive within the production of Braille books was a happy coincidence resulting from the efficient application of the new technologies that we developed. Granted this was a welcome result and one that advanced our claims and intentions in the demonstration and furthering of Braille media production through the application of technology. To even intimate that I sold TBS to Mr. Kleinpell so that it could act solely as a production facility and no longer as a test environment is unfounded. The loss of the test environment is a loss that I feel rather strongly. To be completely accurate, TBS was sold to Mr. Kleinpell purely for financial reasons, because the corporation was in need of the capital that the sale generated.
In looking to the future of TBS, I would like to hope that its name remains synonymous with quality results in innovative and traditional Braille production. I further hope that you do not find issues relating to quality incompatible with the need to be a profitable corporation. Regarding Mr. Kleinpell's involvement both past and present with TBS and the blindness community, I am perhaps more aware than you of the exact depth and nature of his commitments.
I want you to know that I disagree totally with your rationale concerning TBS' failure to win an NLS book contract for 1985. Your letter leaves the reader with the impression that this unfortunate outcome is entirely due to ineptitude and bad judgment on the part of NLS. All of us recognize that the awarding of this contract was far from a model process. However, as you and I both know most of the bad judgment originated in your office. Your decision to bid higher prices, and your unwillingness to bid on all possible increments of books can not be blamed on NLS. It is my feeling that if you had bid on lower quantities as well as the higher lots, you would currently have an NLS contract. It has come to my notice that your continuing inattention to detail on later bids to NLS would also have resulted in the loss of contracts if there had been any other bidders.
Candidly, given the nature of your track record during the last crucial months, I have no doubt that I would have reassigned your position if you were still working for me. I feel that you lost the NLS book contract solely due to high prices and inattention to detail. You have been consistently unwilling to heed advice from those of us who have experience in dealing with these issues, and it is quite clear that we are unable to help you further in this situation. I only hope that individual access to Braille materials does not suffer as a result of this situation.
Beyond this, your insistence on blaming NLS for TBS' unfortunate situation is in my opinion isolating you and your organization in a way which sadden me. I want to make it clear that we at Triformation Systems want no part in any further steps you may choose to take in pursuing this unwise and imprudent course. I only wish you had approached the task of preparing your 1985 NLS bid with the same thoroughness and attention to detail shown in your letter to Dr. Jernigan.
Sincerely, Guy Carbonneau, President
Triformation Systems, Inc.
March 4, 1985
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
First, I want to say that I appreciate your interest and concern for us at Triformation Braille Service, Inc.
Unfortunately, Mr. Geoffrey Bull is no longer with TBS. He and I reached a point of irreconcilable differences and I requested his resignation.
The letter that Mr. Bull sent to you dated January 18, 1985, cannot be condoned by TBS, Inc. or me personally. The facts as presented in that letter, in particular the reference to the loss of the book contract from the National Library Service are not correct.
To get right to the point and to the bottom line of the whole bid scenario for 1985, TBS, Inc. just simply priced itself out of the market. The high bid was a calculated, carefully thought-out process that in the end entailed a lot of risk. It was not created by omission or carelessness. Unfortunately, besides the high bid, there were other problems TBS created for itself:
First; TBS, in the initial bid opportunity, failed to submit to the NLS a copy of our sample work that met the new specifications. Despite the fact that the initial 1985 book bid had to be cancelled because "there were no responsive bidders", this was an obligation we did not meet.
Second; When TBS, Inc. submitted it's bid, it failed to quote a price on all the categories for quantities of books.
Third; TBS, Inc. did not properly prepare for the ten percent (10%) preference given to non-profit entities when quoting higher prices and,
Fourth; When TBS, Inc. bid on the book contract for a second time, it still did not submit a sample copy of work that met the new specifications and repeated problems two and three above in this bid as well.
When we were notified of the fact that we had lost the book contract, I requested a formal briefing. This request was honored and I ended up having two lengthy meetings in Washington, D.C. The first meeting was attended by Mr. Bull, Mr. Guy Carbonneau and myself.
The second trip I took alone. In both meetings, the NLS could not have been more open or professional in their answers to our questions. I feel confident that nothing was kept from our eyes. We reviewed everything from the Production Capacity Models to the sample books other Braille producers had submitted. In the final analysis, and after both meetings, I feel that no unfairness or unjustice was directed at TBS, Inc.
No, I am not happy about losing the 1985 book contract, but to infer or conject that it was because of anything other than what TBS did to itself would not be correct. The facts of this whole issue are quite clear and simple.
I have put the loss of the 1985 contract behind us and have turned our collective efforts toward finishing this year on the plus side and gearing up for next year. TBS is actively working on improving its future. I have been in close contact with Louise Kimbrough about a lot of different management and marketing ideas. Martin Droege has become part of the team as an operational consultant. On March 10, I fly to Germany to pick up a high speed Braille priting press. Hopefully, this press will make TBS more competitive in the magazine business. TBS' commitment to remain a force in the Braille publishing business has never been greater. My philosophical views are such that TBS will remain a for-profit corporation. I feel that the blind community can best be served through the efficiency, accountability, better quality and lower price that a for-profit organization can offer.
I am sincerely looking forward to not only doing more work for the Federation, but to meeting you personally.
If you have any questions about me or my plans for TBS, Inc., please feel free to call or write.
Arthur S. Kleinpell
Chairman of the Board
Triformation Braille Service, Inc.
March 18, 1985
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
In my letter to you dated January 18th, I gave what I still feel were discrete answers to the questions raised in your letter of a month earlier. I gave a brief history of TBS plus some reasons why June 1984 seemed an appropriate time for a corporate reorganization. I then went on to discuss the 1985 NLS book contract, clearly stating that TBS had bid too high a price, that TBS was certainly not entitled to a large number of books in 1985, but that perhaps NLS could have used some discretionary powers so that radical swings in award allocations might have been avoided, the reasons for some staff movements, and finally the future for TBS. These 1st two points have not been disputed in recent correspondence so I will say no more about these at this time.
The chief objective of my last letter to you was to respond honestly to your inquiries, but also to respond discretely such that I did not completely unveil the poblems and short comings of others. If all persons had read my letter objectively and unemotionally, and had bothered to learn the full facts before reacting, then I fell the objective of my letter would have been achieved-TBS would have been seen (quite rightly) not to be in disarray, and we could have all gone about our business.
The letters from Messrs. Carbonneau and Kleinpell leave me no option but to put all the cards on the table, since if their letters remain unanswered my name and reputation would unjustifiably suffer. I have had to read my January letter several times to confirm that the letter says what it was designed to say, since the letters from Carbonneau and Kleinpell do not reflect or represent fairly the contents of that letter. In fact both of these individuals seem to have hysterically embarked on a personal pursecution campaign against me. Their motives?-I can only guess: Carbonneau probably because of a deep-seated bitterness and damaged pride after virtually being compelled to sell TBS in 1984 (see later); and Kleinpell probably because of his desire to curry favor with NLS, to which end I needed to be the scapegoat.
Dr. Jernigan, I am not replying to either the Carbonneau or the Kleinpell letter directly-the first, although addressed to me, was obviously designed for wider distribution; the second, I was not listed on the copies. I am therefore requesting the use of your office as the vehicle of reply. The remainder of this letter therefore will consist of the following:-(a) addressing issues raised in Guy Carbonneau's letter, (b) addressing issues raised in Art Kleinpell's letter, (c) a somewhat reluctant disclosure of the full facts which lay behind some references in my January letter. (d) Some closing remarks.
In addressing the issues raised in both the Carbonneau and Kleinpell letters, because virtually every sentence merits comment, clarification, contradiction, or condemnation. The only way I can do full justice to their letters is to reproduce the Carbonneau letter in full and the first half of the Kleinpell letter in full, with my comments given in brackets where appropriate-I see no other way since there are so many issues to be addressed.
Perhaps this letter should be labeled "PG"-not on this occasion to mean "parental guidance" but because in Carbonneau's letter I have to contend with so much pettiness, provocation, persecution, pride, and prattle; whereas in the Keinpell letter it is more a case of no guts, a mere glimmer of the truth, a goat (of the scape variety), and certainly no good nature. But away with this averting alliteration, let me proceed-here are the letters in question:
Triformation Systems, Inc.
February 6, 1985
This letter is to clarify and correct some inaccuracies in regards to your recent letter to Dr. Jernigan. [ Bull's comment: Neither do you clarify nor correct-rather do you confuse and wrongly condemn. ] CARBONNEAU LETTER: Initially, let me say that in the future when you refer to me by name in your correspondence I would appreciate that you carbon copy me. In this case I was made aware of the contents of your letter and your references to me through the courtesy of Kurt Cylke, who sent me a copy of his copy. [Bull's comment: The original correspondence involved Dr. Jernigan, Kurt Cylke, and myself. In an attempt to maintain a relatively low key I did not choose to copy yourself, APH, ASB, National Braille Press, nor any others referred to in the correspondence.] CARBONNEAU LETTER: First: In regards to TBS and its past and current relationship with Triformation Systems. I was solely responsible for your hiring at TBS. At the time of your hiring, Mr. Kleinpell was not involved with my decision to hire you. [Bull's comment: Since you wish to raise this very petty matter, let me remind you that I was interviewed separately both by yourself and Art Kleinpell before joining Triformation Systems-it's surely reasonable to assume that his interview was part of the hiring process!*] CARBONNEAU LETTER: Second: Your statement that Mr. Kleinpell is the majority stock holder in Triformation Systems is incorrect. [Bull's comment: There is no statement to that effect in my letter-please reread the beginning of paragraph six.*] CARBONNEAU LETTER:Mr.Kleinpell held a sizable portion of the stock; however he never was in a majority position in this organization. [Bull's comment: I agree, my letter does not contradict this!*] CARBONNEAULETTER: In June of l984 when he purchased TBS, Mr. Kleinpell and this company severed all connections. [Bull's comment: Agreed-what is your point?]
CARBONNEAU LETTER: Third: An issue I want to raise is your references to TBS' founding, the motivation therein, and lastly the reasons for the sale of TBS. TBS was founded as a prototypical production test environment. An environment whereby we could experiment with and further develop advances in the current technologies involved in the production of Braille in as many media as we were able to capably advance. [Bull's comment: What is your point? You have used different words to express what I have said in my letter-please re-read paragraph four.] CARBONNEAU LETTER: It was with the encouragement and cooperation of the NLS that TBS became a reality. [ Bull's comment: This is getting tiresome! Once again what is your point?-similar credit is given to NLS in my letter, please re-read the beginning of paragraph twelve.] CARBONNEAU LETTER: You are correct in your reference to the fact that it was my initiative that started TBS, and further it was Martin Droege's energy and expertise that allowed it to be viable. It was upon these two efforts that the edifice you inherited was built. [Bull's comment: Presumably you inserted this passage in an attempt to give yourself and Martin Droege all the credit for TBS' past success, and to belittle my contribution-would it not have been more just at this point to have recognized that I was responsible for increasing the gross income of TBS by sixty percent between the end of 1982 and the end of 1984?] CARBONNEAU LETTER: The fact that TBS was able to be competitive within the production of Braille books was a happy coincidence resulting from the efficient application of the new technologies that we developed. Granted this was a welcome result and one that advanced our claims and intentions in the demonstration and furthering of Braille media production through the application of technology. [Bull's comment: Although I am still not totally clear re the motivation or objective of this letter, this whole passage in my book is labeled mere "prattle "!] CARBONNEAULETTER:To even intimate that I sold TBS to Mr. Kleinpell so that it could act solely as a production facility and no longer as a test environment is unfounded. [Bull's comment: Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so interpretation depends on the insight of the inspector, and reality rests with the reasonableness of the reader. If you would get away for one moment from your subjective reading of my letter you would see that the intimations to which you refer do not exist. My letter states towards the end of paragraph five: "Triformation Systems' Braille department therefore rapidly became very much a production oriented unit, rather than an experimental testing ground. This was one of the key factors which determined that the Braille production department of Triformation Systems should be established as a separate corporate entity in June 1984." So the emphasis was already on production rather than a test environment, and it was this production income and potential income that helped to attract a buyer. I did not say that TBS was sold "so that it could act solely as a production facility...". It was at this point in your letter that you failed utterly to recognize the discrete way in which I discussed the separation question-a subject to which I will turn shortly.] CARBONNEAU LETTER: The loss of the test environment is a loss that I feel rather strongly. [Bull's comment: Yes, and you would do well to get these feelings under control. ] CARBONNEAU LETTER: To be completely accurate, TBS was sold to Mr. Kleinpell purely for financial reasons, because the corporation was in need of the capital that the sale generated. [Bull's comment: "To be completely accurate... ". No sir, if you refuse to recognize my discrete handling of this whole subject in my letter of January 18, then let us be "completely accurate"! You know, and I know, that TBS was sold purely for financial reasons, but the sale did not generate any capital for Triformation Systems. This sale merely made a dent in the very considerable debts that Triformation Systems had at this time. Do you really want the whole world to know that Triformation Systems was so much in debt in the first half of 1984? Do you really want the whole world to know that the income generated from the sale of TBS may or may not enable Triformation Systems to get back on to a sound financial footing?]
CARBONNEAU LETTER: In looking to the future of TBS, I would like to hope that its name remains synonymous with quality results in innovative and traditional Braille production. [ Bull's comment: What isyourpoint?] CARBONNEAULETTER: I further hope that you do not find issues relating to quality incompatible with the need to be a profitable corporation. [ Bull's comment: On what grounds can you justify inserting this sentence?] CARBONNEAU LETTER: Regarding Mr. Kleinpell's involvement both past and present with TBS and the blindness community, I am perhaps more aware than you of the exact depth and nature of this commitment. [Bull's comment: I am assuming that you are referring to the passage in paragraph six of my letter which states: "Mr. Kleinpell's commitment and dedication to the blind community continues as it did when he was a director of Triformation Systems, Inc."* If by your remarks you are casting doubts about Mr. Kleinpell's commitment, then such doubts if expressed are incompatible with your stated hopes for the future of TBS.] CARBONNEAULETTER: I want you to know that I disagree totally with your rationale concerning TBS' failure to win an NLS book contract for 1985. Your letter leaves the reader with the impression that this unfortunate outcome is entirely due to ineptitude and bad judgment on the part of NLS. [Bull's comment: The facts are so grossly misrepresented here that I must refer the reader to my letter, particularly paragraphs thirteen through fifteen. In these paragraphs I clearly state that TBS bid too high; that we were sufferers from the ten percent clause and that there was nothing we could do about that; but that there were discretionary powers-according to my reading of the contract-which NLS might have used if it had so wished which could have avoided radical swings in contract allocations. The crux of my letter is centered on the beginning of paragraph fifteen: "In my view NLS left itself open to criticism this year in its award process, since its decisions led to the following situation: ...". I then went on to describe a situation in which I stated that I felt ASB was over-committed, APH had plenty of spare capacity, and TBS was faced with some major rethinking. I did not say what NLS should have done, I expressed a view that their allocation allotments left them open to criticism. Once again, Mr. Carbonneau, you force my hand. Just as you failed to recognize tact and diplomacy when I discussed the sale of TBS, now you refuse to be cautious when interpreting my letter and its references to NLS. Therefore after I have dealt with your letter and that of Mr. Kleinpell, I shall be obliged to say a great deal more about how NLS left itself open to criticism. So through your bullheadedness not only have you forced me to discuss Triformation Systems ' financial situation in public, but you now force me to discuss NLS and ASB in a less than flattering light. ] CARBONNEAU LETTER: All of us recognize that the awarding of this contract was far from a model process. [Bull's comment: This is perhaps the most revealing sentence in your letter. What a pity you did not expand on this statement since it does not seem to be supported anywhere else in your letter-why was it "far from a model process"?] CARBONNEAU LETTER: However as you and I both know most of the bad judgment originated in your office. [Bull's comment: I wonder when the full story is told whether this will be the consensus view.] CARBONNEAU LETTER: Your decision to bid higher prices, and your unwillingness to bid on all possible increments of books cannot be blamed on NLS. [ Bull's comment: I did not blame NLS.] CARBONNEAU LETTER: It is my feeling that if you had bid on lower quantities as well as the higher lots, you would currently have an NLS contract. [Bull's comment: Wrong again! How can you be wrong on so many occasions? Contract awards this year were made on a purely mathematical straightjacket basis, and as long as those rules applied, whether TBS bid on 200 books or 12, TBS would not have been awarded any titles until the production capacity of ASB and APH had been met.] CARBONNEAU LETTER: It has come to my notice that your continuing inattention to detail on later bids to NLS would also have resulted in the loss of contracts if there had been any other bidders. [Bull's comment: The plurality in this sentence "bids", and "contracts", continues to highlight the inaccuracies, and the venom, and the vindictiveness of you letter. You can only be referring to the one occasion on which I mistakenly submitted one copy of a bid instead of the four copies required by NLS. The exaggeration here is extremely provocative!]
CARBONNEAU LETTER: Candidly, given the nature of your track record during these last crucial months, I have no doubt that I would have reassigned your position if you were still working for me. [Bull's comment: If all of your decisions are based on such misinformation and misrepresentation, then one can hardly take seriously such a statement, and your venom is unlikely to penetrate the astute reader.] CARBONNEAU LETTER: I feel that you lost the NLS book contract solely due to high prices and inattention to detail. [Bull's comment: Half right at last! High prices-yes, inattention to detail-no!] CARBONNEAU LETTER: You have been consistently unwilling to heed advice from those of us who have experience in dealing with these issues, and it is quite clear that we are unable to help you further in this situation. [ Bull's comment: You will recall, Mr. Carbonneau, that I heeded your advice when we went to Washington together following the bid announcement; but right now I am reminded of that old saying-with friends like this, who needs enemies?] CARBONNEAU LETTER: I only hope that individual access to Braille materials does not suffer as a result of this situation. [Bull's comment: Amen. ] CARBONNEAU LETTER: Beyond this, your insistence on blaming NLS for TBS' unfortunate situation is in my opinion isolating you and your organization in a way which saddens me. [ Bull's comment: The insistence is yours. I laid no blame, I simply hinted that there were ways in which NLS could have made awards within the terms of the contract which would have been beneficial to all Braille producers.] CARBONNEAULETTER: I want to make it clear that we at Triformation Systems, want no part in any further steps you may choose to take in pursuing this unwise and imprudent course. [Bull's comment: The course that I took was to respond to a letter from Dr. Jernigan. My reply was as full as the inquiry merited. I took many hours writing that letter in order that I might not be over-critical of any party. Your letter and Art Kleinpell's letter now make that impossible.] CARBONNEAU LETTER: I only wish you had approached the task of preparing your 1985 NLS bid with the same thoroughness and attention to detail shown in your letter to Dr. Jernigan. [Bull's comment: This sentence is a classic! An implied compliment for a letter that has received so much criticism? Surely this is the most appropriate note on which to end a letter which is full of half truths, false accusations, and misrepresentations ; a letter whose confusion and inaccuracies are used as the messengers of unjustified venom and vindictiveness.]
* It is appropriate that this asterisk comment should appear between the letters from Messrs. Carbonneau and Kleinpell. These four asterisks identify the fact that the statements being discussed were inserted by Art Kleinpell. Yes, Arthur Kleinpell heavily edited and added to my letter to Dr. Jernigan-a letter that later he says he cannot condone! The whole of the first half of paragraph six of my letter was inserted by Mr. Kleinpell-those questions over which Guy Carbonneau became so confused: "majority stock holder", "my hiring", and "commitment to the blind community." Yes, these were all the handywork of Arthur Kleinpell, and yet not one word was mentioned in his letter to Dr. Jernigan (or anyone else) concerning Guy Carbonneau's contradiction of these points. Under these circumstances surely an ability to condone my letter and failure to comment on Guy Carbonneau's letter, speak volumes in terms of loyalty and guts.
Nevertheless, let us now move on and look at Kleinpell's letter step by step:
March 4, 1985
Dear Dr. Jernigan:
First, I want to say that I appreciate your interest and concern for us at Triformation Braille Service, Inc.
Unfortunately, Mr. Geoffrey Bull is no longer with TBS. He and I reached a point of irreconcilable differences and I requested his resignation. [Bull's comment: The differences being that one of us has recently come to the conclusion that it makes good business sense never to raise a finger of criticism against NLS, no matter what the provocation, no matter what the justification. This despite the fact that during December Mr. Kleinpell and I spent a great deal of time considering whether the facts that we already had to hand were sufficient to justify a formal appeal against decisions made by NLS.]
KLEINPELL LETTER: The letter that Mr. Bull sent to you dated January 18, 1985, cannot be condoned by TBS, Inc. or me personally. [Bull's comment: This, despite the fact that the hand of Arthur S. Kleinpell was heavily embedded in that letter-is there really any purpose in me saying more about this matter?] KLEINPELL LETTER:The facts as presented in that letter, in particular the reference to the loss of the book contract from the National Library Service, are not correct. [Bull's comment: If they are not correct, why does this letter proceed without contradicting one single point raised in my letter? I wonder also why this letter tries to highlight problems experienced by TBS when some of these same problems were encountered by all other Braille producers-is there some attempt to distort the truth here, to make TBS (and thereby G.L. Bull) seem disproportionately incompetent? I cannot understand Mr. Kleinpell's blatant attempt to curry favor with NLS. This makes good business sense perhaps, but from all other standpoints-past loyalties, fair representation of the truth, and having the guts to stand up and be counted-what is said (and positively more important what is not said) in his letter seems to me to shed a good deal of light on Mr. Kleinpell's priorities
KLEINPELL LETTER: To get right to the point and to the bottom line of the whole bid scenario for 1985 TBS, Inc. just simply priced itself out of the market. [ Bull's comment: In terms of price yes, I agree, this is clearly-stated in my letter.! KLEINPELL LETTER: The high bid was a calculated, carefully thought out process that in the end entailed a lot of risk. It was not created by omission or carelessness. [ Bull's comment: Is this an unexpected compliment I wonder?] KLEINPELL LETTER: Unfortunately, besides the high bid, there were other problems TBS created for itself.
First; TBS, in the initial bid opportunity, failed to submit to the NLS a copy of our sample work that met the new specifications. Despite the fact that the initial 1985 book bid had to be canceled because "there were no responsive bidders", an obligation we did not meet. [Bull's comment: This was true of all Braille producers who submitted bids, and this is clearly stated in my letter in paragraph eight.]
KLEINPELL LETTER: Second; when TBS, Inc. submitted its bid, it failed to quote a price in all the categories for quantities of books. [ Bull's comment: This point has already been covered in my comments on Guy Carbonneau's letter--see also my original letter, paragraph fourteen. ]
KLEINPELL LETTER:Third; TBS, Inc.did not properly prepare for the ten percent preference given to nonprofit entities when quoting higher prices. [ Bull's comment: I do not understand the inference here--we were fully aware of the ten percent differential and its implications.]
KLEINPELL LETTER: Fourth; when TBS, Inc. bid on the book contract for a second time, it still did not submit a sample copy of work that met the new specifications and repeated problems two and three above in this bid as well. [Bull's comment: Need I say more here than to point out that the question of unsatisfactory samples was described in my first letter paragraph eight, which pointed out that samples from all Braille producers were defective.]
KLEINPELL LETTER: When we were notified of the fact that we had lost the book contract, I requested a formal briefing. This request was honored and I ended up having two lengthy meetings in Washington, D.C. The first meeting was attended by Mr. Bull, Mr. Guy Carbonneau, and myself. The second trip I took alone. In both meetings, the NLS could not have been more open or professional in their answers to our questions. I feel confident that nothing was kept from our eyes. We reviewed everything from the Production Capacity Models to the sample books other Bralle producers had submitted. In the final analysis, and after both meetings, I feel that no unfairness or injustice was directed at TBS, Inc. [ Bull's comment: Yes, meetings were held in Washington, and I do not think (and I have never said) that any unfairness was specifically directed at TBS, Inc. In my January letter I hinted that perhaps there had been some bad judgments that may have affected most if not all Braille producers. Since this letter and Guy Carbonneau's letter obsessively seek to discredit my name and refuse to countenance the cautious way in which I discussed this whole subject in my January letter, it is now time to disclose my findings during my trip to Washington--this I will do shortly. ]
KLEINPELL LETTER: No, I am not happy about losing the 1985 book contract, but to infer or conject that it was because of anything other than what TBS did to itself would not be correct. The facts of this whole issue are quite clear and simple. [Bull's comment: They are no longer clear and simple, and however we "conject" they are now unlikely to remain clear and simple. I have no further comments on the remainder of Mr. Kleinpell's letter, which is irrelevant to the main issues - I have therefore not reproduced the final paragraphs for comment.]
I feel that any further comments on these two letters would be superfluous. Since these two writers are not astute enough to recognize discretion, they deserve the discomfort of disclosure. Let me go on therefore to the main issues that I am now forced to unveil: i.e. the reasons for my writing "in my view NLS left itself open to criticism...", and the causes of my unease at the outcome of the 1985 book contract. Mr. Kleinpell was fully aware of all of the following, and Guy Carbonneau had every opportunity to "look before he leaped".
On November 30, 1984, the day after TBS learned that its short-term future had been disrupted by having received no books in the 1985 book contract, Guy Carbonneau, Art Kleinpell, and I went to Washington for a briefing with Mr. Kurt Cylke and his staff. Our hosts were courteous and open with us.
My personal objectives in going to Washington were twofold: Firstly, I was not happy when the first round of bids were rejected on a technicality and I was confident that I would be able to find similar problems with the second round of bids; secondly, I wanted an opportunity to assess the stated resources of a Braille producer who was scheduled to become a giant overnight.
At the close of the meeting with NLS staff, TBS' representatives asked for the opportunity to inspect book samples submitted by all producers, and the Production Capacity Model (PCM) submitted by Associated Services for the Blind (ASB). This permission was graciously granted.
As anticipated we found specifically shortcomings in all book samples, and we brought this to the attention of Mr. Cylke. On examining the PCM I was astounded at its contents, and we requested through Mr. Cylke that all PCM's submitted by producers be reviewed. To his credit Mr. Cylke initiated an independent review of the fiscal 1985 Braille book IFB under the direction of Mr. Henry Paris. Before departing from Washington TBS was invited to return to Washington on the following Friday, December 6, to hear the review's findings.
On December 4, Mr. Kleinpell informed me that he would go to the December 6 meeting alone. I informed him that I thought this would be unwise since the meeting by necessity would be a detailed one, particularly in view of our findings regarding the ASB PCM. He insisted however that he would go alone, and therefore, since he was not at that time faimiliar with operational statistical detail, I sent him the following memorandum so that he would be better equipped to deal with the questions that the memorandum raises. (Since this memorandum was originally designed for internal use only, I have modified a few of the numbers, but otherwise it is reproduced here in full.)
Subject: Production Capacity Model for Associated Services for the Blind
To: Art Kleinpell
Date: December 6, 1984
As you are aware, I had a brief opportunity last Friday to take a few notes whilst examining the Associated Services for the Blind (ASB) Production Capacity Model (PCM). Using this information, I attach a chart hereto which directly compares the statistics on the ASB PCM with my own estimate of what can realistically be achieved with the equipment and staff numbers stated on the ASB PCM. In most cases my estimates are optimistic.
The comparison displays major differences, and I am prepared to justify/ defend my comparison anaylsis either in theory or in practice anywhere, anytime, since my analysis is based on having actually produced the equivalent of 200 books during the last 12 months. ASB's stated capacity for Data Entry and Proofreading is completely unrealistic, and Pressroom and Bindery capacity is expressed more in terms of the ability to produce several hundred copies of magazines rather than the capacity for producing 66 copies of press-bound books-the requirement for these two situations are extremely different. ASB's capacity in all of these areas is overstated as much as 2, 5, or 7 times.
The foregoing raises the following issues in my mind:
1. ASB would seem to be too inexperienced to submit an accurate PCM for book production, therefore their ability to produce Braille books in large quantity must be questioned in terms of experience as well as current staff numbers.
2. The PCM indicates that ASB has no other work at this time since they have allocated 10096 of their resources to NLS book work - I find this astonishing.
3. In my view, if ASB has no other work at this time and they propose to produce 200 titles under IFB 85-001, they will need to immediately increase their Data Entry staff by two (preferably three), their Proofreading staff by three, and to consider the problems of having at least nine staff surplus to their needs in the bindery.
4. Based on the PCM submitted by ASB, ASB bid on 250 books and NLS awarded them 200. This PCM contains inaccurate information, it should not have been submitted in this form, and it most certainly should not have been approved. We must therefore challenge the allocation of books awarded under IFB 85-001.
Further investigation into ASB's bid package and into documents submitted by other bidders will be necessary if we are to pursue this matter.
PRODUCTION CAPACITY MODEL
The following figures compare data from ASB's Production Capacity Model with Geoffrey Bull's estimates of ASB's production capacity. The listing gives the production stage, followed by the number of employees engaged in that stage (shown in parentheses), followed by the number of pages per hour per employee, followed by the annual capacity in pages:
ASB's Figures: Data Entry (6) - 13 -120,000 pages annually
Bull's Estimates: Data Entry (6) - 7 - 65,000 pages annually
ASB's Figures: Proofreading (5) - 28- 107,000 pages annually
Bull's Estimates: Proofreading (5) - 16 - 62,000 pages annually
ASB's Figures: Plate Embossing (1) -60 -105,000 pages annually
Bull's Estimates: Plate Embossing (1) - 50 - 88,000 pages annually
ASB's Figures: Press (Heidleberg) (4) -12,000 - 72,000,000 pages annually
Bull's Estimates: Press (Heidleberg) (4) - 1,720 - 10,400,000 pages annually
ASB's Figures: Press (Thompson) (1) - 3,600 - 5,500,000 pages annually
Bull's Estimates: Press (Thompson) (1) - 2,100 - 3,200,000 pages annually
ASB's Figures: Collating (7) - 1,500 - 64,000,000 pages annually
Bull's Estimates: Collating (7) - 1,800 - 76,000,000 pages annually
ASB's Figures: Binding (4) - 50 - 61,000,000 pages annually
Bull's Estimates: Binding (4) - 10 - 12,000,000 pages annually
ASB's Figures: Shipping (2) - 120 - 73,000,000 pages annually
Bull's Estimates: Shipping (2) - 75 - 46,000,000 pages annually
I repeat that the figures entered on the ASB PCM are astounding!! I have not seen Production Capacity Models submitted by other Braille producers but I would indeed be very surprised if their figures did not closely resemble my own. ASB's capacity is misrepresented in a number of areas, and NLS should not have accepted these figures as major criteria in determining the allocation of its 1985 book contract.
Mr. Kleinpell attended the December 6 meeting alone-a point at which I think he usurped many of my responsibilities. Mr. Paris's report was presented at the meeting, revealing indeed that the samples from all book producers did not meet specifications, and some (mostly minor) comments were made about the Production Capacity Models. The exception here being that the report suggested that the capacity for ASB might be 143 titles based on reassessment of the proofreading capacity.
The reports findings were noted, but basically ignored. The bid was allowed to stand although all samples were defective; and ASB's allocation of books was allowed to remain at 200. It is remarkable that both Production Control Section at NLS and a special review body should accept the ASB PCM as "reasonable".
Mr. Kleinpell returned from the meeting undecided as to what further steps we should take. With the passage of time, he increasingly became of the opinion that matters should be allowed to rest, and I somewhat reluctantly went along with this. Then your letter arrived, Dr. Jernigan, and against a background of which you are now more fully aware, I hope you will agree that in replying to your letter I struck a reasonable balance between truth and discretion. Would that others had recognized this.
The most regrettable aspect of this whole scenario is the PCM submitted by ASB. The fact that the majority of the 1985 press Braille book contract has been awarded to a Braille producer who submitted such a questionable PCM reflects poorly on the Braille production field. More so, the fact that this PCM was accepted, not once but by two separate review groups within NLS makes a mockery of the monitoring process which helps to determine federally funded Braille book contract allocations. Just to highlight how outrageous are the statistics submitted on the ASB PCM, using their performance criteria I have calculated that they claim to be able to produce 200 titles in one year with 4.5 data entry staff; 4 proofreaders; 1 press operator working only two days a week; and 1 person working in the bindery working 1 hour's overtime per week-other Braille producers would give their right arm for anything approaching that ability! Meanwhile, of course, in reality ASB will be seeking urgently for staff over and beyond those listed on their PCM. What madness that the successful completion of the 1985 book contract will depend on large part upon a lot of hard work, and a great deal of luck from one heavily over-committed Braille producer.
Have I said enough I wonder to remove doubts from the minds of those that thought I was over-critical in my references to NLS and in particular by suggesting that they "left themselves open to criticism?" Rather, Dr. Jernigan, would you not agree that considering the facts to hand I answered your December letter with caution and diplomacy almost to a fault?
In closing I would like to make six comments:
1) After reviewing my letter dated January 18th many times, I stand by its contents. The only very minor modification I might make is to declare that I am not certain whether ASB submitted a bid on the first occasion. My letter implies they did not, but this is here- say, and I am making an assumption.
2) I stand firmly behind the memorandum that I sent to Mr. Kleinpell on December 6, and with the minor changes already made, I am prepared to defend its contents in public debate.
3) I feel that Kurt Cylke has acted professionally throughout, but that he has been ill-served by his staff in this matter.
4) With a copy of this letter-that must now go to Mr. Ben Holmes at ASB-I will send a cover letter attempting to explain my reluctance at having to discuss ASB's affairs in this way.
5) I shall not be entering into further correspondence re the rights and wrongs of this matter. If there is more to be said then I will join any gathering called for that purpose-given that my unemployed status will provide for such.
6) Through this letter, Dr. Jernigan, I formally apply to become a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Having lost my employment and having had my reputation threatened, I seek the advice of yourself and your organization as to what steps (if any) should be taken at this time.
Yours very truly,
Geoffrey L. Bull
cc: Guy Carbonneau