August 21, 2012
St. Helens Community Federal Credit Union membership has presented the credit union’s board of directors with a petition seeking a recall of five of its seven board members. The petition, which contains 492 signatures, marks another step in a series of events for the credit union that has elicited strong reactions from a small group of members.
The petition outlines specific board actions, including voting to part ways with former CEO Jeff Schwarz on May 16, 2012, and signing a letter of intent on June 19 to explore a merger with Wauna Federal Credit Union, as the basis for the petition and the recall effort, which targets Board Chair Lea Chitwood, Treasurer Mike Hafeman, Secretary Marty Borrevik, and board members Richard Louie and David Graham. Michael Ismert and Vice Chairman Tom Tussing were left unchallenged.
“We respect the right of members to voice their opinions through this process, but as the CEO, I do not support the recall effort,” said St. Helens President and CEO Brooke Van Vleet. “I believe this to be a baseless and impulsive recall that is only intended to be disruptive to the credit union.”
St. Helens received the signed petitions on Aug. 7, and after having the signatures validated by Moss Adams, an independent auditing firm, the board scheduled a special membership meeting for 6 p.m. at Scappoose High School Auditorium on Sept. 4.
Questions from members about the board’s decisions first surfaced at the credit union’s annual meeting on June 26—the meeting at which the merger possibility was first announced. More than 200 were in attendance at the meeting, which is typically host to fewer than 100. Van Vleet stressed that, while significant, these numbers, including the 492 signatures on the petition, still represent just a fraction of the credit union’s 15,000-plus members.
"The bylaws are in place to govern such a petition process, and it is important that the entire membership have the opportunity to voice opinions and not just the vocal minority,” Van Vleet said. “At the same time, it is critical to present a balanced viewpoint and be consistent and clear in communications to the membership and staff."
Van Vleet assumed the post of president and CEO in mid-July, replacing Interim CEO Charlotte Hart, and her first official action—with the support of the board—was to terminate the merger talks with Wauna. Hart and board member Darrel Purkerson, who continues to serve on the credit union’s supervisory committee, were voted off the board at the June 26 board meeting.
“The board stands by its decisions and believes they were made in the best interest of the credit union,” Van Vleet said. “They are disappointed the recall has occurred but are moving forward with the process in accordance with the credit union bylaws.”
Van Vleet went on to emphasize the credit union’s long history as a trustworthy financial institution.
“St. Helens Community Federal Credit Union has served local people in Columbia County since 1938,” she said. “This long-term success owes much to the strength and commitment of our volunteer board members who give generously of their time and have a fiduciary responsibility to make sound decisions.”
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