The CFP Board has lost another top official.

Back in August, the CFP Board trumpeted Joe Votava as its 2016 chairman (and 2015 chair-elect) with a press release highlighting his leadership experience and dedication to the planning industry.

Eight months later, in a lengthy email Monday covering more than a dozen topics, the board said that he won't lead the board after all.

"That is a big job," says Votava, CEO of multifamily office Seneca Financial Advisors, in discussing his decision. "Things have gotten a lot busier here at work and at home as well. It got to be too much. It's one of those situations where you bite off more than you can chew."

Despite being immersed in last-minute tax work, Votava now sounds like someone who has set down a heavy burden. In a conversation punctuated with laughter, the former accountant and lawyer says he and his wife are looking forward to spending time with two new grandchildren, after both of their grown children surprised them recently by moving closer to their parents' home in Rochester, N.Y.

"They are calling up saying, 'We moved back here to see you guys. Aren't you coming over tonight?'" he says.


Votava's resignation follows years of volunteer work with the board in different positions. He's also been a director on the FPA's board and held top positions at numerous other nonprofits.

That long public service resume lead at least one prominent planner and Financial Planning contributor, Michael Kitces, to speculate that an ongoing lawsuit at the board may have contributed to Votava's decision to leave.

"What on earth compels someone with Votava’s kind of track record of success to capstone his volunteer career by resigning three months into his chair-elect year?" Kitces asks in his well-read blog. "It certainly raises the question of whether, once again, yet another person in a position of leadership with the CFP Board decided he didn’t want to be around and have to take the heat or be the fall guy when the case is finally resolved."

Votava did not reply when asked specifically about the CFP Board's legal issues, but emphasized his personal motivation for stepping down, saying the workload was simply too great. "We just had one board meeting this year," he says. "That's where I could see it really ramping up."


The CFP Board has been caught up in a series of conflicts over the last few years.

In late 2012, it pressured then-sitting chairman Alan Goldfarb to step down from the board over his use of the term fee-only. Shortly after Goldfarb's departure, married planners Jeffrey and Kimberly Camarda, of Fleming Island, Fla., followed through on a threat to sue. The board and the Camardas remain locked in an ongoing legal battle, which also centers on the couple's use of the fee-only term.

Several key figures have also left the board over the same period. Rex Staples left his job as director of investigations, a position the board had created for him, shortly after Goldfarb stepped down and news of the Camardas' lawsuit emerged. And Michael Shaw, one of board CEO Kevin Keller's closest longtime associates, left his position as the board's director of legal affairs last year.

"If the CFP Board is really so certain it will prevail in its lawsuit, why does it seem like all the leadership associated with the case is fleeing the organization?" Kitces asks.


A statement from the CFP Board echoes Votava's concerns.

"There is no connection between the resignation of Joe Votava ... from CFP Board's Board of Directors and the Camarda litigation," says spokesman Dan Drummond in a statement.

"After Mr. Votava had the opportunity to observe first-hand the significant time commitment involved in the position of Chair, he determined that this volunteer position was not consistent with the increased requirements of his growing business and his personal desire to spend quality time with his new grandchildren. We will miss his leadership, but we respect his decision."

For now, the board says current chairman Richard Rojeck has assumed Votava's responsibilities, which include running nominations for new board members. The board says it will accept applications for new volunteer board members who can provide the board with "strategic direction" through June 10. Separately, the board of directors will elect Votava's replacement later that month.

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