DATE: September 1, 1998
FROM: James Gashel
Director of Governmental Affairs
RE: Important Randolph-Sheppard program notice
This notice should be of interest to anyone in the
Randolph-Sheppard program and to all members of statewide blind
vendor committees as well as to state licensing agencies.
Therefore, please distribute this information to those in your
state who would be concerned with its content.
A recent mailing distributed by an organization calling
itself the "National Organization of Randolph-Sheppard State
Committees" has caused considerable attention. The mailing, sent
under date of August 19, 1998, consists of documents designed to
create a formal organizational structure and to indicate the
official approval of each state's committee to associate with the
Among other things, the founders of the organization are
attempting to obtain the payment of dues from each state by an
assessment of $25.00 for each vending facility. They expect to
obtain the entire amount due for each state from the state
licensing agency. Resolutions intended to set this process in
motion were included in the mailing, and their prompt adoption
With this initiative underway, it can only be assumed that
state committees will discuss the question of whether or not to
join this group. Therefore, members of state committees and
state licensing officials should consider the following
Ralph Sanders is the principal organizer of the group. This
is evident because the mailing was made from his residence
at 12 East Henrietta Street in Baltimore, Maryland. Also,
responses to the mailing are to be returned to the same
address. This would also presumably include the sum of
money that each state would owe as dues--that is, $25.00 for
each vending facility.
There are 3,427 vending facilities in the program nationwide
according to the most recent reports. This means that the
states would be sending in a total of $85,675 in response to
nothing more than a draft constitution and bylaws to define
the intended activities of the group. From the documents,
it is clear that the mission of the organization can be
anything that its founders want it to be.
According to the mailing, Ralph Sanders will have
considerable prominence in the group and influence on the
direction it takes. He is not only the point of contact in
forming the group, but he is also shown as the organizer of a
mid-November founding meeting being planned for Washington, D.C.
For anyone who knows Ralph at all, it will be immediately clear
that he intends to have far more than a perfunctory
With that in mind, it is important for all concerned to know
enough about Ralph Sanders to determine whether or not to place
their trust and confidence in anything being formed with his
leadership. For example, his involvement in advocating for the
privatization of the existing program is a matter of public
record. He has been involved in this activity, even to the point
of contacts with members of Congress during the last few months.
Also, Ralph has had time to work on privatization during the
last several months since he was asked to resign as the operator
of a large cafeteria at the Social Security Administration in
Baltimore. This occurred after he appeared at the business in a
state of inebriation. It was also reported that he disrobed (at
least partially) in front of customers.
As for fiscal responsibility (which should be considered in
light of the dues payment expected) two more facts are relevant.
First, Mr. Sanders has recently taken bankruptcy for the second
time. Also, it is reported that he failed to pay sales tax to
the state of Maryland which he had collected from his customers.
Regardless of the reason, this is, of course, a violation of the
law--not to mention a reflection on personal integrity.
Finally, Ralph Sanders has recently become involved with a
corporation known as the Cantu Corporation, which is attempting
to become more and more involved as a subcontracting entity in
the operation of large Randolph-Sheppard facilities. This means
that his current business and financial interests are not
necessarily those of blind vendors. Therefore, in view of the
record, it would be prudent to view his motives with suspicion.
The distribution of information such as this is not a
pleasant thing to do. Nonetheless, since the facts are relevant
to placing trust in someone for leadership, it would be more of a
disservice to hide them than to report them. Whether an
organization of state committees should be formed at all is
something that vendors must consider. However, if it is done
under the leadership of Ralph Sanders, the effort will surely
fail. In the end, it will not be in the best interest of the
vendors or the vending facilities program.
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