Board Members Who Attempted To Convert CU Are Ousted In Vote

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Members of Columbia Credit Union last week overwhelmingly voted out three long-time directors who narrowly survived an unprecedented recall vote last spring over the credit union's failed conversion to mutual savings bank. A fourth incumbent director was also voted out.

The members voted to replace the four-Ed Bell, William Byrd, Dennis McLachlan and Bruce Davidson-with dissident credit union members who fought the conversion bid and sponsored the recall, in which eight of the nine directors who voted for the conversion (Davidson was not one) won a close fight to retain their jobs.

"I think the members have spoken. They voted every one of the incumbents out and voted every one of our candidates in," said Steve Straub, the former CEO of the credit union and one of the leaders of the dissident group who won election to the board last week.

The group, known as Save Columbia CU, will now seek to gain more seats on the nine-person board next spring when three more seats open up on the staggered panel, Straub said. "We have other good people who were behind the Save CCU effort," he said.

Also elected to the board last week were Save CCU members Duane Bequette, Emmy Winterburn and Ralph Erdmann.

But just as significantly, Save CCU members, including controversial firebrand Lloyd Marbet, were elected to three of the five seats on the credit union's supervisory board, which oversees much of the credit union's activities. Marbet,a well-known political activist in the Portland area, was one of the originators of the recall effort.

The group was created after members voted in a close and much-disputed ballot a year ago to convert to a mutual savings bank. Once NCUA, which found widespread irregularities in the ballot, disqualified the vote, the group staged a petition drive to recall all of the directors who voted for the conversion. The initiative culminated in a special meeting last spring in which all of the targeted directors narrowly retained their board seats.

Following their narrow survival, the board agreed to end their efforts to convert to a bank.

Davidson was not one of the targeted directors because he was appointed to replace Columbia's CEO David Doss on the board after it was discovered Doss was serving on the board in violation of the credit union's bylaws.

Last week's vote was not even close. The dissidents received far more votes than the incumbents, with Straub getting 4,036; Erdmann 4,041; Bequette 3,986 and Winterburn 3,752. The votes for the incumbents: Bell 2,346; Byrd 2,617; McLachlan 2,263 and Davidson, 2,308.

Straub said his group will seek to make peace on the board and work with the surviving incumbents, despite their past differences. "We're not going in with any chips on our shoulders," he said.

Last week's election, which took place at the credit union's annual meeting, was the first time in 25 years that credit union members were allowed to vote on their directors (other than last spring's recall vote), because the supervisory committee had not approved any other candidates but incumbents during that time.

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