The Elaborate Ruse: How Staff and Colleagues Conspired to Surprise New FTA Hall of Fame Member Mark Cisternino
Let me begin by stating that anyone can nominate anyone for consideration to join FTA’s Flexo Hall of Fame. There is a one page form requesting information like the person’s name, company affiliations, industry contributions and FTA/FFTA positons and service. You can get this form from any Hall of Fame member or the FTA staff.
Each year, the members of the Hall of Fame read all the nomination forms and select their first, second and third choices for induction into the Hall of Fame. The votes are then tallied by the current Hall of Fame committee chair—me.
Members take the nomination and election process for induction into the Hall of Fame very seriously. We agonize over making sure the candidate pool represents those individuals who have truly made a difference to the world of flexography. At the same time, we do not want there to be any hint of cronyism. While you can nominate someone, you are not allowed to try and convince other members of the committee that any particular person should receive the honor. The balloting is kept secret. In the end, the members of the committee know who has been selected, but with the exception of the committee chair, no one knows who voted for whom. This entire process is overseen by the president of the FTA to ensure complete transparency.
So, when I was handed a Hall of Fame nomination form for Mark Cisternino, there was an obvious problem. If Mark was watching over the process, he could not know that he was nominated. After discussing this with other members of the Hall of Fame, it was decided that the best solution was to create a fake nominee. That fake nominee had to be someone who was actually a valid candidate and, at the same time, willing to be “used” for this purpose.
So, a nomination form for Joe Tuccitto was submitted for consideration. Every member of the Hall of Fame was contacted and made aware that a vote for Joe was actually a vote for Mark. It was also made very clear that this was in no way a solicitation for Mark and that everyone needed to vote his or her conscience. All they really needed to understand was that a vote for Joe, was really a vote for Mark.
There was one more issue that needed to be addressed. Mark is a member of the FTA staff. As such, the chair of FFTA’s Board of Trustees had to approve the process, again to ensure transparency. After a short discussion with Allen Marquardt, he was convinced there was nothing inappropriate in the process.
A member of the Hall of Fame then asked me, “What are you going to do if he is selected? Will you try to keep the ruse up through the entire process?” To be honest, I really did not worry too much about it. I would be committee chair for only one year. Most likely, it would never be an issue, or become someone else’s problem in a couple of years, but of course you now know how shortsighted that was.
The votes came in and Joe—oops, I mean Mark—was selected into FTA’s Flexo Hall of Fame. So, two emails went out to Hall of Fame members. The first announced that Mark was this year’s honoree. I was pleasantly surprised by the emails I received, from people who, even though they had not voted for Mark, thought he was an excellent choice. The second email stated that Joe was this year’s honoree, and this time, Mark was CC’d. So, the ruse continued.
I then contacted Robert Moran, publisher of FLEXO. He and Editor Brad Pareso would have to be in on everything, if we were going to pull this off. Two articles had to be written: one saying Joe was the honoree, which Mark would approve, and a second article, about Mark. And Creative Services Manager Katie Dubois would need to design both versions of the story. At this point, I realized how fortuitous it was that we used Joe as our decoy. Since Joe was also part of FTA’s staff, we could tell Mark we had to keep the issue announcing the Hall of Fame inductee closely guarded, so the secret would remain safe.
We also had to include Corey Arnold of Bars and Tone Productions, Inc. Corey handles all the multimedia aspects of Forum’s Awards Banquet. He had to know that, at the last minute, we needed to slip in Mark’s information in place of Joe’s. There are so many little things that might give this secret away, but as long as Mark thinks these are to keep the secret from Joe, we might just get away with it.
I am reminded of The Sixth Sense, where everything becomes glaringly obvious once you know the secret. Until then, it’s all just part of the story.
I wrote about this ruse in early February. At that point, we had everything in place and the wheels were in motion. On Sunday night at the Awards Banquet, when Mark’s name was read as the newest member of the Hall of Fame, the expression on his face hopefully confirmed the secret was kept.